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Saturday, May 10, 2008

The gullet (oesophagus)

The oesophagus (pronounced e-sof-fa-gus), is also known as the gullet. It is a long, muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach. It is at least 12 inches (30cm) long in adults. When you swallow food it is carried down the oesophagus to the stomach, and the walls of the oesophagus contract to move the food down.

At the upper part of the oesophagus it runs behind, but is separate from, the windpipe (trachea). The windpipe connects your mouth and nose with your lungs, enabling you to breathe.

A diagram showing the position of the oesophagus
A diagram showing the position of the oesophagus

Various lymph nodes (which filter fluid and can trap bacteria, viruses and cancer cells) are near the oesophagus; in your neck, in the middle of your chest and near the area where the oesophagus joins the stomach. A tumour can occur anywhere along the length of the oesophagus.

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