Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, the thin tube that connects the back of the throat to the stomach. Your esophagus carries swallowed food to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer can happen anywhere along the esophagus, but in the United States, it happens most often in the lower part that is closer to the stomach.

Esophageal Cancer: What You Need to Know 

Prevention
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk for esophageal cancer:

  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Teamwork
Esophageal cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that include gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, nurses and cancer patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Personalized Care
Our nurse navigators are here to help coordinate your care and streamline your overall experience. Our skilled nurses will help you through the clinical aspects of your care, scheduling initial tests and consultations with the appropriate physicians, providing education regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan, and acting as a single point of contact for you and your family. We also assist with the logistics of your care, helping you find the resources you need, and providing support for transportation, financial and insurance issues.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise
Fletcher Allen and the Vermont Cancer Center provide specialty expertise in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer. Our nationally recognized physicians are also researchers and teachers who are up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields. We are proud to offer clinical research practices that may one day lead to future cures.

What is Esophageal Cancer?

The two most common forms of esophageal cancer are named for the type of cells that become cancerous, or malignant.

Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma) is cancer that forms in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the esophagus. This cancer is usually found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus, but can happen anywhere along the esophagus.

Adenocarcinoma is cancer that starts in glandular (also called secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the esophagus make and release fluids like mucus. Adenocarcinomas usually form in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.

Esophageal cancer symptoms include:

  • Painful or difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Chest pain, pressure or burning
  • Tiredness
  • Repeated choking while eating
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Coughing or hoarseness

Typically, early esophageal cancer causes no signs or symptoms.

The exact cause of esophageal cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including: 

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Barrett’s Esophagus 
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Cigarette smoking or chewing tobacco – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Obesity
  • Eating few fruits and vegetables
  • Gender: the condition is more common in men than women
  • Race: African-Americans are more likely to have esophageal cancer
  • Age: older adults between the ages of 45 – 70

Diagnosis and Treatment: Esophageal Cancer

Fletcher Allen’s physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat esophageal cancer such as endoscopy and endoscopic placement of stents.

Learn more about esophageal cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 877-540-HOPE (4673).