What You Should Know About Esophageal Cancer

Cancer of the esophagus makes up about 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it is one of the deadliest types of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that only about 20% of patients survive longer than 5 years from diagnosis, with 15,530 deaths predicted this year. That’s why knowing the risks, symptoms and what you can do to prevent esophageal cancer could one day make a big difference in your health or the health of your loved ones.

What Are The Risks For Esophageal Cancer?

The two most common types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. The first kind is most commonly found in smokers, while the second is related to acid reflux. People who smoke are therefore at a greater risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, as are patients with uncontrolled acid reflux. Other risk factors include excessive alcohol consumption, a diet that is poor in fruits and vegetables, drinking hot liquids, and obesity.


Esophageal Cancer Symptoms

Many patients do not experience early symptoms of esophageal cancer. When symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Heartburn
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Painful swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing or choking on food
  • Unintentional weight loss

What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk

There are a number of ways you can reduce your risk for esophageal cancer.

  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Increase intake of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Treat heartburn or acid reflux.


When To See A Doctor

Early intervention often provides the best outcomes for patients with esophageal cancer. You should make an appointment for evaluation if you have any of the following:

  • Regular heartburn symptoms.
  • You have experienced heartburn in the past, but the symptoms have gone away.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing.
  • An ongoing, unexplained cough.
  • Hoarseness for several weeks.
  • A long-lasting, unexplained sore throat.
  • You cough or choke when you lie down.
  • A family history of Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.


It is also possible to have heartburn without the typical pain or chest discomfort that most people experience. This is commonly called silent or atypical reflux, and may only cause coughing or hoarseness. That’s why anyone experiencing any of the symptoms listed above should seek medical care, as any type of acid reflux can lead to esophageal cancer.

Click here to read more about esophageal cancer. If you would like to make an appointment with one of our specialists, please call (318) 631-9121 or click here.

The team at GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treats multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have over 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care you can trust. Top of Form