Background: Esophageal cancer is one of the most serious gastrointestinal cancer worldwide, owing to its rapid development and fatal prognoses in most cases. There is a paucity of published data regarding esophageal cancer in Tanzania and the study area in particular. This study was conducted to describe the endoscopic and clinicopathological patterns of esophageal cancer in this part of the world. The study provides baseline local data for future comparison.
Methods: This was a retrospective study of histologically confirmed cases of esophageal cancer seen at Bugando Medical Center and Muhimbili National Hospital between March 2008 and February 2013. Data were retrieved from medical record computer database and analyzed using SPSS computer software version 17.0.
Results: A total of 328 esophageal cancer patients were enrolled in the study, representing 25.3% of all malignant gastrointestinal tract tumors. The male to female ratio was 2.2:1. The median age of patients at presentation was 47 years. The majority of patients (86.6%) were peasants coming from the rural areas. Smoking and alcohol consumption were documented in 74.7% and 61.6% of patients respectively. Family history of esophageal cancer was reported in 4.6% of cases. The majority of patients (81.7%) presented late with advanced stage of cancer. Progressive dysphagia and weight loss were the most common presenting symptoms occurring in all patients. The middle third esophagus (58.5%) was the most frequent anatomical site for esophageal cancer followed by lower third (27.4%) and upper third esophagus (10.4%). Squamous cell carcinoma (96.0%) was the most common histopathological type. Adenocarcinoma occurred in 13 (4.0%) patients. TNM staging was documented in only 104 (31.7%) patients. Of these, 102(98.1%) patients were diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer (Stages III and IV). According to tumor grading, most of tumors were moderately differentiated accounting for 56.1% of cases. Distant metastasis was documented in 43.3% of patients.
Conclusion: Esophageal cancer is not uncommon in this region and shows a trend towards a relative young age at presentation and the majority of patients present late with advanced stage. There is a need for screening of high-risk populations and detecting esophageal cancer at an early stage in order to improve chances for successful treatment and survival.