Esophageal cancer historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hadeel Maksoud M.D.[2]


Cases of esophageal cancer can be noted as far back as ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. The advent of the 21st century has brought about advances in imaging techniques and treatment of esophageal cancer, including esophageal ultrasound and monoclonal antibody therapy.

Historical Perspective

Esophageal Cancer Timeline[1]

Esophageal cancer was first described in ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. An Egyptian scribe recorded on papyrus that he had fixed "a hole in the gullet".
0 - 1 AD, "Swallowing syndromes" caused by cancer were described in China.
1724, Boerhaave reported a case of spontaneous rupture of the esophagus.
1871, Billroth successfully resected and reanastomosed the cervical esophagus in dogs.
1881, Mickulicz studies the physiology of the esophagus and in 1886, treats esophageal cancer via resection and plastic reconstruction.
1938, Adams is the first surgeon in the United States to perform transthoracic esophageal resection with immediate esophagogastrostomy.
1946, Ivor Lewis introduces esophagectomy and esophagogastrostomy through a right thoractomy.
1984, Leichman and colleagues at Wayne State University combine 3,000 cGy with two cycles of 5-FU and cisplatin preoperatively in 21 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.
1997, multiple phase III randomized trials fail to show significant survival benefit for neoadjuvant multimodality therapy.
21st century, new endoscopy techniques, new types of chemotherapy, advances in radiological instruments and improvements in surveillance.

Famous Cases

Humphrey Bogart died in 1957 after complications of esophageal cancer.


  1. Eslick, Guy D. (2009). "Esophageal Cancer: A Historical Perspective". Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 38 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2009.01.003. ISSN 0889-8553.

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