Esophageal cancer is rare, and its nonspecific symptoms — like coughing and difficulty swallowing — make it difficult to diagnose. But early diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus is crucial to improve your outcome and life expectancy.
At the UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, experts will carefully diagnose your condition and provide every available treatment for esophageal cancer. We support patients at every stage, from first symptoms through palliative care.
Esophageal cancer is the development of cancerous cells anywhere in the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. There are two types of esophageal cancer:
Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:
Early in its development, esophageal cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms. Later, people may notice coughing or trouble swallowing. Other symptoms include:
Your UCLA doctors will thoroughly examine you to understand your stage of esophageal cancer. Then your team will discuss your options with you to create a customized care plan. Our program offers:
Most people with cancer of the esophagus have surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding cells. Your doctor may also recommend other treatments. Your care may include:
Surgery to remove part or all of your esophagus is called esophagectomy. It is a major surgical procedure. Esophagectomy may be an open surgery or a minimally invasive laparoscopy. After removing the tumor, your doctor connects the remaining parts of the esophagus or replaces it with a section of intestine. After the surgery, some people are cancer-free.
You may get chemoradiation on its own or along with surgery. Chemoradiation uses radiation and chemotherapy at the same time.
Chemotherapy medicines travel throughout your body to destroy cancer cells. Radiation uses intense X-rays to target cancer cells for destruction. Read more about radiation oncology.
This minimally invasive procedure uses an endoscope inserted through your throat to reach the tumor. With a tool attached to the endoscope, your doctor uses a thin wire to “lasso” the tumor.
An electrical current removes the tumor and some surrounding cells and seals the cut at the same time. Read more about EMR .
Your doctor may suggest PDT to remove cancer cells near the surface of the esophagus. For more advanced cancer, PDT can relieve discomfort or make swallowing easier. PDT happens in two stages:
Targeted therapy uses biologics, medicines that attack proteins or other parts of cancer cells to stop their growth. Not all esophageal cancer can be treated with targeted therapy. Targeted therapy may work for some esophageal cancer near the GEJ. Read more about targeted therapy for esophageal cancer.
Unfortunately, many cases of esophageal cancer are not identified until the cancer has advanced. Some of these tumors cannot be removed surgically. Treatment for advanced esophageal cancer include:
To schedule an appointment with the UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, please call the UCLA Cancer Hotline at 888-ONC-UCLA (888-662-8252) Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, or our Physician Referral Service at 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (310-825-2631).