April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

join with the aacr to find better ways to prevent and treat cancer of the esophagus

Esophagreal Cancer Awareness Month

The esophagus is a long, muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer forms in the lining of the esophagus. There are two types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 21,560 people living in the United States were found to have esophageal cancer in 2023. Meanwhile, 16,120 died of the disease, so it has a relatively high death rate. The five-year survival rate for people with esophageal cancer is about 22 percent.

Smoking, heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages, and a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Additionally, risk factors include older age, being male, and being African American.

Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, pain behind the breastbone, hoarseness and cough, and indigestion and heartburn. 

Treatment of esophageal cancer usually involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, singly or in combination. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the use of medications that help the immune system fight cancer. The approval made available two different medications based on nivolumab as initial treatment for some people with advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer. The approval covers the use of nivolumab plus chemotherapy, and nivolumab plus ipilimumab.

The latest on esophageal cancer

Scientists are testing Immunotherapeutics known as immune checkpoint inhibitors for treatment of advanced esophageal cancer without chemotherapy. Read about this in Cancer Today magazine: Chemotherapy-free Treatment for Advanced Esophageal Cancer.

WHAT THE AACR IS DOING

The AACR supports research in cancer of the esophagus, including work by young investigators in Africa. The program is called Beginning Investigator Grant for Catalytic Research (BIG Cat). Alex Memri, DDS, MMed, works at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania. He received a BIG Cat grant to study screening for this cancer. Specifically, he is investigating whether a method called the Cytosponge, or “pill on a string,” would be an affordable alternative to endoscopy.

one woman’s story

Read how a “recovery mindset” is helping Laurie Betts of North Carolina deal with cancer of the esophagus. Her story is in Cancer Today, an AACR magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones. A Recovery Mindset | Cancer Today.

for more information

Please see our page on esophageal cancer, which includes detailed information on prevention, screening, and treatment.