Esophageal Cancer

About Esophageal Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that each year, more than 17,000 people (13,750 men and 3,900 women) in the U.S. are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the U.S. is about one in every 132 men and one in every 455 women.

Overall, the rates of esophageal cancer in the United States have been fairly stable for many years, but over the past decade they have been decreasing slightly. It is most common in whites, but is now almost equally as common in African Americans.

Cancer of the esophagus starts in the inner layer of the esophagus and grows outward. Since 2 types of cells can line the esophagus, there are 2 main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

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Advanced Treatment

At Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, our patients can receive an esophagectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the esophagus affected by esophageal cancer. During this procedure, part of the esophagus is removed and another organ, usually the stomach, is used to reconstruct the gastrointestinal tract. Traditionally this required large incisions in the neck, chest and abdomen with significant complications; however, our surgeons have specialized training in robotic assisted surgery which allows this procedure to be done through much smaller incisions, resulting in less blood loss, post-operative pain and far less risk of complications. This results in a faster recovery and quicker return to normal daily activities than conventional open surgery. At the Cancer Center, this procedure is performed at a high volume throughout the year.


Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened for esophageal cancer.


Risk factors for esophageal cancer include being older than 55, tobacco and alcohol use, obesity, exposure to chemical fumes in certain workplaces, injury to the esophagus, history of other cancers, and HPV infection. Please talk to your doctor about any personal risk factors you may have, including any prior conditions you or someone in your immediate family has had.


The symptoms associated with esophageal cancer may be: trouble swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, hoarseness, chronic cough, vomiting, hiccups, bone pain, bleeding into the esophagus, black stool, anemia, or fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that involve human beings in order to test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat diseases. A drug must be part of a clinical trial before the FDA will approve it to be put on the market. Oncology clinical trials are conducted in order to test new drugs or a new combination of drug treatments, new surgery and radiation therapies and new medical devices. Every cancer center patient is evaluated for participation in a clinical trial. Those who meet the criteria to participate in clinical research receive a standard of care treatment, but with the added benefit of a trial that may enhance their outcomes. If interested in volunteering to participate in a clinical research trial, or if you have concerns about the conduct of clinical research, please contact the Clinical Research office at (225) 215-1353, or by email at

Additional Support

  • American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society website contains information on many aspects of cancer care geared toward patients and caregivers.

  • National Cancer Institute: National Cancer Institute is a federal program that is part of the National Institutes of Health. It has resources and information for patients and caregivers which is based on scientific research.