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Esophageal Cancer

A written page with the definition of "bladder cancer" highlighted in pink
Esophageal cancer is cancer of the esophagus which is the tube in which food and liquids pass from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus is divided into 3 sections: distal, middle and upper. There are two main types of esophageal cancer: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell. Esophageal cancer is the 6th most common cause of cancer related deaths globally and 7th in the United States. There are not any screening tests to detect this cancer early. Therefore, it’s important for individuals to recognize symptoms early and seek care from their providers sooner than later.

Risk Factors May Include:

  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Being male increases risk 2-3 times
  • Being Caucasian
  • Being obese
    • Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater increases one’s risk 16-fold
  • Heavy smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Diagnosis of GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Diagnosed with HPV (human papillomavirus)

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms are different for each patient. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician. They may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or sensation of food getting stuck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hoarseness and/or persistent cough
  • Indigestion and/or sour acid taste in the back of throat
  • Blood in sputum
  • Pain or tenderness behind the breastbone or chest

Screening & Diagnostic Testing

Screening and diagnostic testing will include a physical exam, various types of tests such as endoscopy, bronchoscopy or flexible laryngoscopy to examine the anatomy of the esophagus and nearby structures. If tissue appears suspicious, a biopsy may be taken to be further examined under a microscope. To help facilitate diagnosis, radiological exams such as chest X-ray, a CT scan or PET scan may be ordered.

Helpful Patient Resources:

We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and it is an emotional time for the patient and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, that you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.

National Cancer Institute

Esophageal Cancer - Patient Version

American Cancer Society

Esophagus Cancer

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Guidelines for Patients