Esophageal cancer can be a) very rare, b) sometimes fatal, or c) successfully treated if found early.

All of the above are correct here.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 19,000 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed this year, and from those, nearly 15,000 unfortunately could prove fatal.

With April being Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, CTVS hopes to change that trajectory of estimated deaths to successfully treated cases, one patient at a time.

CTVS surgeons can treat esophageal cancer, which occurs in the lining of the esophagus and connects the throat to the stomach.

Because of the nature of esophageal cancer symptoms–as they are not uncommon and similar to those of so many other illnesses–it can be hard to detect. “These subtle symptoms that can often go unnoticed for a while result in people being slow to reach out to their doctors,” says CTVS thoracic surgeon Dr. Rachel Medbery. “Sometimes it’s too late for any effective treatment as this cancer typically progresses quite rapidly, so we urge you to get checked out as soon as possible if you suspect something is not right.”

What are symptoms of esophageal cancer?

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Sore throat
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Unexplained heartburn and indigestion
  • Sharp pain behind the breastbone

Some common risk factors that can contribute to esophageal cancer are:

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Advanced age
  • Barrett’s esophagus: a condition typical in those suffering from chronic GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) where the tissues lining the esophagus are highly sensitive and easily irritated

If you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time, it’s best to see your physician right away. A positive diagnosis for esophageal cancer often comes from a combination of X-rays, sometimes biopsies, and a thorough review of your medical history.

Dr. Medbery says the good news about esophageal cancer is that it is very highly treatable if detected early.

How is esophageal cancer treated?

Esophageal cancer is often treated by surgery and rounds of chemotherapy and radiation if necessary.

If the cancer is found early and has not spread, a procedure known as an esophagectomy can be performed to surgically remove parts of the esophagus where cancerous tumors have formed. In the best case scenario, this may be the only treatment needed. The surgery is done either via an open incision or using a more minimally-invasive method such as laparoscopy. The stomach (where the esophagus leads to) is then brought upwards in the body and connected to the healthy part of the esophagus that remains.

At CTVS, we are committed to arming ourselves with the most cutting-edge surgical techniques and latest research in order to effectively care for our esophageal cancer patients while both preserving their quality of life and extending it as much as we possibly can.

If you have questions or concerns about your risk for esophageal cancer, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.

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