NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Esophageal Cancer, Version 1.2016
Esophageal cancer basics
Cancer cells don’t behave like normal cells in three
key ways. First, mutations in genes cause cells to
grow more quickly and live longer. Normal cells grow
and then divide to form new cells when needed.
They also die when old or damaged as shown in
. In contrast, cancer cells make new cells
that aren’t needed and don’t die quickly when old or
damaged. Over time, cancer cells form a mass called
the primary tumor.
The second way cancer cells differ from normal
cells is that they can grow into nearby tissues. If not
treated, the primary tumor will likely grow beyond the
wall of the esophagus and into nearby structures. The
nearby structures into which esophageal tumors grow
are described in
Part 2 Cancer staging
Third, unlike normal cells, cancer cells don’t stay
in place. They can spread to other parts of the
esophagus and to distant sites. This process is called
metastasis. In this process, cancer cells break away
from the tumor and merge with blood or lymph. Then,
the cancer cells travel in blood or lymph through
vessels to other sites. In other sites, the cancer cells
may form secondary tumors, replace many normal
cells, and cause major health problems.
Illustration Copyright © 2016 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.www.nucleusinc.com Illustration Copyright ©
2016 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.www.nucleusinc.com
Normal cell growth vs.
cancer cell growth
Normal cells increase in number
when they are needed and die
when old or damaged. In contrast,
cancer cells quickly make new
cells and live longer because of
abnormal changes in genes.