St. Helena Esophageal Cancer Treatment

Comprehensive cancer care from a trusted medical team

The esophagus is a hollow tub that connects the throat to the stomach. You can think of it as the lower portion of the throat. Esophageal cancer was once the most common type of cancer in the United States, but the rates have gone down in recent years.

Esophageal cancer can begin in the cells that line the esophagus (squamous cell carcinoma) or the lower gland cells (adenocarcinoma) At the Martin O’Neil Cancer Center, we provide care and treatment for all types of esophageal cancer.

Risk factors of esophageal cancer

Cancer researchers are still trying to determine what causes esophageal cancer. Like almost all cancers, we know it begins when a mutation in DNA creates abnormal cells that begin rapidly multiplying. In time, these cells can develop a tumor and use it as a means of invading other parts of the body. While we do not know what causes esophageal cancer, we do know some of the associated risk factors.

Factors that increase your risk for esophageal cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • GERD
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Obesity
  • Frequent consumption of very hot beverages (149F or higher)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Achalasia
  • Diet lacking in fruits and vegetables

Treatment options

Some early signs of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, chest pain, chronic coughing and hoarseness. Doctors typically use an endoscopic ultrasound or CT scan to make a diagnosis. If cancer is found, treatment should begin as soon as possible. Cancer treatment is more promising when it can begin before the cancer has a chance to spread.

Surgery to remove a tumor is often the most effective form of treatment, but this only works if the cancer has not spread and the cancer is small enough to safely remove. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to eliminate any lingering cancer cells.