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More than 16,640 new cases of esophageal cancer are diagnosed each year, with more than 14,500 deaths due to the disease. It is estimated that approximately $800 million in spent in the US each year on the treatment of esophageal cancer.
*Source: The National Cancer Institute

Esophageal Cancer Overview

Esophageal cancer forms in tissues lining the esophagus, the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach.

The lining of the esophagus is the most common region where cancer may begin. When these cells of the upper two thirds of the esophagus degenerate into a malignant tumor, the type of esophageal cancer is described as squamous cell cancer. Cancers that develop in the lower third of the esophagus are described as adenocarcinoma .

WellStar Health System provides superior care for esophageal cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition, WellStar offers innovative advantages in the fight against esophageal cancer including:

  • Dedicated GI surgeons, who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere, as well as medical oncologists with special interest in esophageal cancer.
  • Cutting-edge technology including the CyberKnife, a highly advanced radiation alternative to surgery that provides new hope to patients with inoperable or complex tumors. WellStar was the first health system in Georgia to this technology.
  • The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments - including radiofrequency, resections, endoscopic esophageal removals and spine wands for pain relief.
  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that allows for the radiation to be tailored to the size and placement of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
  • A GI Tumor Board, which meets weekly to present patient cases and craft a personalized treatment plan. The conference is attended by medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and a team of surgeons including specially trained liver and pancreas surgeons, colorectal surgeons and general surgeons specializing in minimally invasive surgery.
  • Clinical trials - more than 200 patients are enrolled annually in WellStar programs.


While some of these symptoms can also be signs of something far less serious, it is important to see your WellStar physician if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Symptoms of esophageal cancer include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain unrelated to eating
  • Backwards movement of food through the esophagus and possibly mouth (regurgitation)
  • Severe, persistent heartburn
  • Vomiting blood
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Risk Factors

  • Alcohol use
  • Bile reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease or Barrett's Esophagus, a condition that involves the abnormal presence of cells in the lower esophagus.
  • Chewing tobacco or smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Drinking very hot liquids
  • Obesity