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10

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

Esophageal Cancer, Version 1.2016

1

Esophageal cancer basics

A disease of cells

A disease of cells

Cancer is a disease of cells. Inside of cells are coded

instructions for building new cells and controlling

how cells behave. These instructions are called

genes. Genes are a part of DNA (

d

eoxyribo

n

ucleic

a

cid), which is grouped together into bundles called

chromosomes.

See Figure 2

. Abnormal changes

(mutations) in genes cause normal cells to become

cancer cells. Researchers are still trying to learn what

causes genes to mutate and cause cancer.

Esophageal cancer most often starts in squamous

and glandular cells. Squamous cells are found in the

epithelium of the esophageal wall. Cancers of these

cells are called squamous cell carcinomas. Cancers

that start in glandular cells that make mucus are

called adenocarcinomas. Squamous cell carcinomas

and adenocarcinomas of the esophagus are the focus

of this book. Visit

NCCN.org/patients

for patient

guides of lymphomas and sarcomas.

Illustration Copyright © 2016 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.

www.nucleusinc.com

Figure 2.

Genetic material in cells

Most human cells contain the

“blueprint of life”—the plan by

which our bodies are made and

work. The plan is found inside of

chromosomes, which are long

strands of DNA that are tightly

wrapped around proteins. Genes

are small pieces of DNA that

contain instructions for building

new cells and controlling how cells

behave. Humans have about 24,000

genes.

Illustration Copyright © 2016 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.

www.nucleusinc.com