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How to detect stomach cancer early

Making up about 1% of cancer cases in the U.S., esophageal cancer is one of the rarest types. It begins in the esophagus—a long, muscular tube connecting your mouth to your stomach—and can develop in any part of the esophagus but is most common in the lower part. Esophageal cancer can be either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma, depending on the type of cells affected.

Esophageal cancer risk factors and symptoms

Risk factors that increase your chances of developing esophageal cancer include: 


The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is pain or difficulty when swallowing. This symptom often feels mild at first, but it may become difficult to swallow very soft foods. Other symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough or hoarseness
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or behind the breastbone
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Vomiting or hiccups


Esophageal cancer screenings and diagnosis

While examining your symptoms and medical history, your doctor can get a better look at your condition through one of these diagnostic tests:

  • Barium swallow: Requires someone to drink a liquid with barium—a silvery metal—in it, which is easier to detect in an X-ray.
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): Uses a thin, flexible tube to view the inside of your esophagus.
  • Imaging
  • Biopsy


Esophageal cancer treatment and surgery

Treatment plans will vary based on your general health and the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Your doctor may suggest:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy 

Our multidisciplinary team at St. Luke’s Health works with patients to recommend what treatment options are best for each case and each person. Talk to your physician for more information.

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U.S. News & World Report

Home of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only three NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Texas, U.S. News & World Report has accredited Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center as one of the best hospitals for several specialties, including previous accreditation for compassionate patient-centered cancer care.