Esophageal Cancer

What is esophageal cancer?

When you eat and drink, food and liquids travel down your esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. Esophageal cancer is cancer that starts in the esophagus.

Types of esophageal cancer

  • Squamous cell carcinoma – This type of cancer occurs when the cells that line the inside of your esophagus start to grow abnormally.
  • Adenocarcinoma – This type of cancer can occur if a condition called Barrett's esophagus has caused changes in your esophagus.

Early detection can give you a head start in treating esophageal cancer, so if you already have Barrett's esophagus, our team will work with you to make sure you receive proper, regular screenings.

Symptoms esophageal cancer

Some of the most common symptoms of esophageal cancer include:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest, back or throat pain, especially when swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent heartburn

Diagnosis and testing for esophageal cancer

Many other illnesses can cause these same symptoms, so talk to your doctor to get a better idea of what's happening in your body. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You may also need tests like:

  • An X-ray, MRI or CT scan
  • A special X-ray called a barium swallow, where you drink a substance that will help your esophagus show up more clearly in an X-ray
  • An endoscopy, which is a test where the doctor inserts a thin scope with a camera into your esophagus to look for problems With endoscopy, your doctor can take a tissue sample at the same time to examine tumor cells and decide what treatments might work best for you.

Esophageal cancer treatment options

Treatment for esophageal cancer can include:

  • Surgery, including minimally invasive robotic esophagectomy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Photodynamic therapy

Talk to your doctor to see which treatment — or combination of treatments — might work best for your needs.


Lung and Thoracic

Main Line Health experts use the latest technology to diagnose and treat all types of conditions affecting the chest, lungs and esophagus.

Cancer Care

From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.

Hematology and Blood Disorders

Whether you are fighting cancer or managing a blood disorder, the hematologists and oncologists at Main Line Health offer the comprehensive care you need.


Main Line Health gastroenterology works to resolve digestive issues and GI conditions. Find the right solution for your digestive conditions at one of our Philadelphia locations.