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 will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer and 16,120 will die of the disease in 2023, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with esophageal cancer is about 22 percent.

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

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

Treatment of esophageal cancer usually involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgical resection, or a combination of those. Immunotherapy has also come into use. In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two different therapeutics based on nivolumab as initial treatment for some people with advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer that can’t be treated with surgery. The approval covers the use of nivolumab plus chemotherapy and nivolumab plus ipilimumab for the treatment of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the cells that line the esophagus.

The latest on esophageal cancer

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

one person’s story

Read how a “recovery mindset” is helping Laurie Betts of North Carolina deal with cancer of the esophagus in Cancer Today, a magazine published by the AACR for cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers: A Recovery Mindset | Cancer Today.

for more information

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