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Esophageal Tumors That Are Noncancerous

by Elliot M. Livstone, MD

Noncancerous (benign) tumors of the esophagus are rare. Many cause problems with swallowing and, rarely, ulcers, bleeding, or both. They are usually more bothersome than harmful.

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. 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.