Knowing the type of esophageal cancer you have helps the doctor in planning your treatment. There are two main types of esophageal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: this develops in the fine, flat cells lining the esophagus.
  • Adenocarcinoma: this type of cancer begins in gland cells in the submucosa.

Cancer can develop in any place along the esophagus. Cancers in the upper part of the esophagus are almost always squamous cell cancers. Most cancers in the middle part are of the squamous-cell type. Most that are found in the lower part of the esophagus, including the part where the esophagus joins the stomach, are adenocarcinomas.
Over 95% of cancers of the esophagus are squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas.

There are also other, more rare types of cancer. These include poorly differentiated neuroendocrine tumors, small-cell cancer, and soft tissue sarcomas such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors.