Stomach and esophageal cancer

Stomach cancer

Stomach cancer—also called gastric cancer—is common in some parts of the world. But if you live in the United States, your chance of getting stomach cancer is roughly 1 in 100.

Are there different stomach cancer types?

Most U.S. cases of stomach cancer begin in the upper part of the stomach, where the stomach meets the esophagus. Because of this, it can be difficult to determine whether the cancer started in the esophagus or the stomach.

Esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer develops in the inside lining of the esophagus. If you live in the United States, your chance of getting esophageal cancer is about 1 in 200. Cancer of the esophagus is much more common in other parts of the world.

Are there different esophageal cancer types?

Types of esophageal cancer coincide with the types of cells you find in the esophagus.

  • Squamous cell cancer forms in the normal lining of the esophagus or the "squamous cells." It usually occurs in the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
  • Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the U.S. It comes from abnormal gland cells at the end of the esophagus near the stomach.

Barrett's esophagus

If left untreated, Barrett's esophagus may lead to esophageal cancer.

Source: Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; American Cancer Society, Detailed Guide: Stomach Cancer; American Cancer Society, Detailed Guide: Esophagus Cancer
Reviewed By: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, president, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 10/14/2009
Last Reviewed: 10/14/2009

medical illustration of the esophagus leading from the mouth to the stomach

Your esophagus and stomach

When you swallow food, it goes down the esophagus and enters the stomach, where digestion occurs.

The esophagus is a tube of several muscle layers. The top part is located in your neck behind your breathing tube (trachea). The lower part is in your abdomen, where the esophagus connects to the stomach.