Esophageal Cancer

Expert Care and Treatment for Esophageal and Gastric Cancers

Our Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer includes medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, and pathologists who improve the outcome for patients with esophageal and stomach cancer.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources. 

Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer

What Is Esophageal Cancer?

Esophageal cancer forms in tissues that line the esophagus, which is the hollow, muscular tube that moves food and liquid from the throat down into the stomach. Esophageal cancer starts at the inside lining of the esophagus and spreads through the outer layers as it grows. 

Esophageal cancer is relatively uncommon in the United States, and it affects many more men than women. It is a challenging condition to treat, since patients usually aren't diagnosed until the cancer has advanced to the point where it causes symptoms. At Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, about 60 percent of our esophageal cancer patients are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, meaning that it has spread to other organs and distant lymph nodes. 

In the past two decades, our knowledge about esophageal cancer has improved dramatically. Physicians at the Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center have a clearer understanding of which patients are likely to benefit from a particular treatment approach or clinical trial, and can deliver a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation more precisely. 


What Is Barrett's Esophagus? 

Barrett's esophagus is a condition that can be pre-cancerous or, in a more advanced state, an early form of esophageal cancer. It is often the result of chronic inflammation due to acid reflux, and appears as abnormal cells lining the lower part of the esophagus. When it's found early, it presents an opportunity to prevent it from progressing into cancer. 

Risk Factors 

There's a misconception that the people at risk for developing esophageal cancer are primarily smokers and drinkers. While smoking and drinking do increase the likelihood of developing the squamous cell carcinoma variant of this cancer, in reality, the most common form of this cancer, adenocarcinoma, can afflict just about anyone. However, risk factors include: 

  • Males 
  • People with Barrett's esophagus 
  • People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) 
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking (including pipe and cigar) 

Signs and Symptoms 

The early stages of esophageal cancer usually don't produce any physical symptoms. By the time symptoms are noticeable, the disease has usually become advanced. The most common signs and symptoms are: 

  • Painful or difficult swallowing 
  • Weight loss 
  • Regurgitation of undigested food 

When esophageal cancer is found very early, it is usually "accidental," meaning that patients are being medically examined for another reason when it's suspected and found, sometimes in a pre-cancerous form called Barrett's esophagus. When it's caught early, there is a much better chance of recovery. 

Esophageal Cancer: Get the Facts

Finding esophageal cancer early is important. This video describes what you need to know about risk factors and symptoms.

Why Choose Us

At the Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, our team specializes in treating adults with esophageal cancer. Our center includes world leaders in the field who are dedicated to providing you with the highest level of care, compassion, and experience. Our team makes optimum use of state-of-the-art facilities, research, advanced treatment options, and the full range of support services from a top-ranked cancer hospital and research center. 

We provide comprehensive services to patients with these cancers, including:   

  • Personalized treatment: plans based on your needs and the details of your specific cancer 
  • Experienced thoracic surgeons who specialize in esophageal cancer and who perform minimally invasive surgery 
  • Dedicated Thoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where we care for patients with esophageal cancer 
  • Access to the most advanced treatments for esophageal cancer, including clinical trials that may not be available elsewhere 
  • Multidisciplinary care delivered by specialists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital