Cancer of the esophagus — the food pipe that runs between the throat and the stomach — is rare. There are two main kinds of esophageal cancer:
- Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the U.S. It can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or Barrett's esophagus. It usually develops at the bottom of the esophagus, where stomach fluids leak back up in people with these conditions.
- Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops at the top of the esophagus. It can result from smoking or heavy drinking.
Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer
If you have these risk factors, talk to your primary care doctor about getting regular screening tests for esophageal cancer:
Esophageal Cancer Symptoms
Esophageal cancer can be hard to detect because there often aren't any signs in its early stages. But it may cause some symptoms, especially in its later stages. Talk to your doctor if you have experienced the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing or food getting caught
Esophageal Cancer Treatment at RUSH
At RUSH, we provide advanced treatment options and use state-of-the-art techniques to treat esophageal cancer.
If you are diagnosed with esophageal cancer, your care at RUSH will likely involve one or more of the following:
- Surgery: Surgeons at RUSH can remove your whole esophagus or just the part of it affected by the cancer. This type of surgery is called an esophagectomy. If the cancer is in the lower part of the esophagus, your surgeon may also need to remove part of your stomach. When possible, surgeons at RUSH use laparoscopic and robot-assisted techniques, which involve smaller incisions that can lead to less pain and faster recovery times.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): Doctors at RUSH use endoscopic mucosal resection to remove early-stage cancers or precancerous tissues if you have Barrett's esophagus, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, carcinoid tumors and colon polyps. Doctors may also use EMR to take tissue samples to examine for diagnostic purposes.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): Endoscopic ultrasound is an imaging procedure that doctors use to find and evaluate cancers and other conditions of the pancreas, liver, gallbladder and digestive tract, along with lymph nodes.
- Endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD): This procedure is used to remove hard to reach precancerous and cancerous tumors located under the lining of the GI tract by using a flexible, tube-like tool called an endoscope.
- Esophageal stenting: During this procedure, a tube is placed in your throat to keep the blocked area open to help you swallow solids and liquids.
- Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS): Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat illness, like esophageal cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Doctors at RUSH offer the latest cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs, used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Radiation therapy: Doctors at RUSH use advanced technology that targets the cancer with high doses of radiation while protecting surrounding healthy tissue.
- Immunotherapy: RUSH offers the most advanced immunotherapies, which help your body fight cancer.
- Targeted therapy: A treatment option that identifies and attacks cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
- Supportive therapies: The supportive oncology program offers massage, yoga, biofeedback and other therapies to help you cope with pain, loss of energy and other challenges related to your cancer.
- Cancer rehabilitation: Cancer and the demands of treatment can have a lasting effect on your health — physically, emotionally and cognitively. Cancer rehabilitation can help you prepare for treatment and maintain strength throughout, so you can get back to the things you care about most.
- Nutrition counseling: With esophageal cancer, you will have special nutritional needs during and after treatment. Our nutritionist will work closely with you to help you with these challenges and make sure you get the nutrients you need.
RUSH Excellence in Esophageal Cancer Care
- Nationally ranked experts focused on you: RUSH University Medical Center is ranked among the best in the nation for cancer, gastroenterology and GI surgery and ENT care by U.S. News & World Report. Specialists in all of these areas will work with you and each other to create a personalized treatment plan for you.
- Personalized care coordination: Your cancer care team may include medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, medical, radiation and surgical oncologists, thoracic surgeons, head and neck surgeons, interventional radiologists, genetic counselors, dietitians, social work, supportive oncology, nursing coordinators and others. In many cases, they will meet with you in a single visit to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options. At the end of this meeting, you will have a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your specific diagnosis and needs. Your team will then help guide you through your entire continuum of care, including coordinating tests, treatments and appointments and addressing any concerns you may have along the way.
- More accurate, more rapid results: At RUSH, we know that time to treatment matters. Our specialists use the latest technology and approaches, so you can get test results quickly and receive proper treatment right away.
- Minimally invasive options: Whenever possible, our surgeons perform procedures using small incisions, such as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to diagnose and treat esophageal cancer. With minimally invasive approaches, you will have less pain, fewer complications and a shorter recovery time.