Noncancerous (benign) tumors of the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach) are rare. Some tumors can cause problems with swallowing and, rarely, ulcers, bleeding, or both. They are usually more bothersome than harmful.
To diagnose these tumors, doctors do an upper endoscopy or a barium swallow. In an upper endoscopy, doctors look in the esophagus with a flexible tube. In a barium swallow, doctors usually take x-rays while the person swallows barium liquid (which shows up on x-rays). Once the tumors are seen, doctors take tissue samples by doing an upper endoscopy and may also do endoscopic ultrasonography. Doctors may do a computed tomography (CT) scan in some people.
Typically, treatment is not recommended until a person develops symptoms.
The most common type of noncancerous tumor is a leiomyoma, a tumor of the smooth muscle. It occurs most frequently in people between the ages of 30 and 60. Most leiomyomas are small and do not require treatment. However, a small number of leiomyomas grow large enough to cause partial obstruction of the esophagus, which may lead to difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and pain or discomfort. Analgesics (pain relievers) may provide temporary relief, but surgical removal is needed for permanent relief.
Other types of noncancerous tumors, including those consisting of connective tissue (fibrovascular polyps) and tissues related to nerves (schwannomas), are rare. Because other rare noncancerous tumors can become cancerous (malignant), doctors typically remove them.