Patients & Caregivers / Health Conditions / Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus—a long, hollow tube (called the lumen) that runs from your throat to your stomach. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus. 


May include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain, pressure, or burning
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Coughing or hoarseness
  • Vomiting
  • Hiccups

Risk Factors

The chance of getting esophageal cancer increases with age and less than 15% of cases are found in people younger than age 55. Men are more likely to get esophageal cancer. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have a slightly higher risk of getting adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that starts in the glands that line the inside of the esophagus. Some medical conditions of the esophagus, such as achalasia and Plummer-Vinson syndrome, or rare diseases such as tylosis, greatly increase esophageal cancer risk. Other risk factors are the use of tobacco and alcohol, being obese, having a diet high in processed red meats, drinking very hot liquids, workplace exposures to chemicals, scar tissue from esophageal injury, and certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. 

Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of GERD and people who have it may have symptoms related to reflux. About 10% of people with chronic symptoms of GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus. With Barrett’s esophagus, the normal tissue lining the esophagus changes to tissue that resembles the lining of the intestine and is more resistant to stomach acid. The gland cells can become more abnormal over time and result in dysplasia, a precancerous condition. People with Barrett’s esophagus are at a much higher risk than people without this condition to develop adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Still, most people with this condition do not get esophageal cancer. 

Key Statistics:

Esophageal cancer makes up about 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

Estimated 5-year survival rate (all stages combined) is about 20%

About three and a half times more men than women get esophageal cancer



Treatment Options

Depending on the type of cells involved with the cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient’s overall health, treatment may include surgery with or without chemotherapy and/or radiation. Very early stage cancers may be treated endoscopically. 



If you would like to learn more about Esophageal Cancer, Barrett’s Esophagus and GERD, you’ll find more information about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and living with these diseases from the following resources. 


Close the Gap

Close the Gap is Boston Scientific’s health equity program dedicated to raising awareness for gastrointestinal diseases, educating patients, funding research and improving access to care.