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Esophageal Cancer

Radiologic imaging of esophageal cancer

At the Abramson Cancer Center, we use personalized treatment plans and sophisticated surgeries to treat all of types of esophageal cancers with precision. Our vast support resources and compassionate approach mean no one faces this cancer alone.

About Esophageal Cancer

The esophagus is the long tube that carries food to your stomach after you swallow. Esophageal cancer (esophagus cancer) develops from different types of cells that make up the lining of the esophagus.

There is not a known cause of esophageal cancer, but researchers think that chronic irritation of your esophagus, by factors like smoking and being overweight, may put you more at risk. Barrett’s esophagus (red, inflamed esophageal tissue caused by long-term acid reflux) may also increase your chances of developing the disease. For a very small percentage of people, genes may play a role.

Learn more about:

Why Choose Abramson Cancer Center for Esophageal Cancer Care?

Our esophageal cancer specialists have the high degree of expertise that comes from regularly treating advanced and complex cases. Our team is deeply committed to making patients’ lives better. We stay in close contact with you during your treatment and ensure you can reach us at any time through our easy-to-navigate patient portal, myPennMedicine.

When you choose us, you can expect:

  • Renowned surgical expertise: Penn Medicine is an ultra-high-volume center for esophageal cancer surgeries. Our renowned surgeons perform complex procedures for advanced cases other centers can’t treat. In fact, they take a team approach with a GI surgeon and a thoracic surgeon, which offers the best outcomes for patients.
  • Close coordination of specialists: Fellowship-trained doctors with different areas of expertise meet often to discuss the details of every case. Penn has a multidisciplinary tumor board dedicated exclusively to esophageal and stomach cancers. This close communication helps us personalize your care and adapt quickly to changes. Our coordinated approach also means you may see multiple specialists on the same day, reducing the number of visits you need.
  • Precise diagnosis: We use the most advanced diagnostic tools. Endoscopic ultrasound allows our specialists to biopsy and stage esophageal cancer at the same time. Learn about esophageal cancer diagnosis.
  • Treatment tailored to you: Cancer cells can act in unusual ways. Doctors and scientists at the Center for Personalized Diagnostics lead the nation in cancer genetics research. Specialized tests that analyze cancer cells help our doctors recommend the most effective treatments that minimize side effects.
  • Extensive support: Our nurse navigators support you in lots of ways. A dedicated nutritionist follows you through your treatment and our social workers check in often to make sure you’re comfortable. Learn more about navigating GI cancer.
  • Expert care, close to home: We make it easier for you to access our expert care without having to travel far. Esophageal cancer specialists are located at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and at several of our outpatient locations. We get you the treatment you need, no matter where you live.

Our Approach to Esophageal Cancer Treatment: The Penn Medicine Advantage

Esophageal cancer treatment often requires a combination of therapies, sometimes in a specific order. Our team considers several factors, including your health, cancer genetics and your life goals, when developing your personalized treatment plan.

Esophageal cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Doctors usually recommend surgery to treat esophageal cancer when possible. As a high-volume center, we consistently treat more esophageal cancer patients more effectively. We always use the least invasive methods possible for surgery, so you recover faster. Learn more about surgery for esophageal cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy or other cancer-fighting drugs before, after or instead of surgery. Systemic treatments like chemotherapy are usually delivered in pill form or in as an IV infusion.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapies are medicines that attack cancer cells at the molecular level.
  • Immunotherapy: Penn is at the forefront of immunotherapy research, exploring how new drugs can boost the body’s immune system to more effectively fight cancers in the digestive tract.
  • Radiation therapy: Our radiation oncologists specialize in treating esophageal cancers using radiation therapies, including proton therapy. Proton therapy can deliver a powerful dose of radiation to cancer cells while protecting nearby vital organs, including the heart and lungs.
  • Clinical trials: Our robust research program works to identify new targets for therapy. Your treatment options may include a clinical trial that explores newer drug therapies or a new treatment combination. Read about our GI cancer research.
  • Supportive care: Your quality of life is important to us. Our counselors help you manage the physical and emotional challenges you face during treatment. A unique esophageal support group helps you in different ways throughout treatment and recovery. Learn more about GI cancer support services.

Comprehensive Esophageal Cancer Surveillance

Your relationship with your care team doesn’t end when treatment does. We provide comprehensive follow-up care, including surveillance testing and checkups, tailored to your needs.

Through a special program, you can meet with an advanced practice provider trained in the long-term health needs of patients with gastrointestinal cancer. We identify potential health issues and help you manage side effects.

Request an Appointment

Call 215-615-5858 to speak with a cancer center representative who can guide you to the right esophageal cancer expert for your needs. You can also request an appointment online.