Esophageal Cancer Awareness: How to Reduce Your Risk - NFCR


Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month: Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk

Esophageal Cancer Awareness

Learn about the symptoms and risk factors associated with this serious illness, as well as measures that you can take to reduce your risk and lead a healthier life.

Esophageal cancer is a rare, but often devastating illness that affects an individual’s esophagus — the hollow tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Although an individual’s risk of developing the disease during his or her lifetime is only 0.5 percent, the five-year survival rate for those patients diagnosed with the condition averages just 19.9 percent.

To help commemorate Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month this April, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) encourages readers to learn more about this serious illness, including the signs and symptoms of which you should be aware, as well as steps that you can take to live a healthier life and help reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer and other health conditions.

Getting the Facts About Esophageal Cancer

It’s estimated that 18,440 people will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2020. According to the National Cancer Institute, the two most common types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, which typically affects the upper and middle part of the esophagus, and adenocarcinoma, which usually occurs in the lower part of the esophagus near the stomach.

Esophageal cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stages. However, as it progresses individuals can experience:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Cough that does not go away
  • Indigestion or Heartburn
  • Vomiting

Because symptoms usually do not appear until the disease is advanced, esophageal cancer is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Family Feud host Richard Dawson, famed lawyer Robert Kardashian, and renowned actor Humphrey Bogart all succumbed to the disease, with Kardashian passing away just eight weeks after his diagnosis.

Fortunately, researchers continue to investigate new methods to treat esophageal cancer that extend beyond traditional options, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Scientists from the University of Cambridge and Case Western Reserve University have even published studies identifying potential new, personalized treatments that target the disease.

Understanding and Mitigating Your Esophageal Cancer Risk

A risk factor is anything that can increase someone’s potential of developing a specific illness. While some risk factors are genetic and cannot be prevented, others can be avoided if a person adopts healthy behaviors.

According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for developing esophageal cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Having acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Men are also approximately three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than women.

Individuals who want to decrease their risk for developing esophageal cancer are encouraged to avoid using tobacco products and consuming alcohol. For tools and tips to help you stop smoking, visit If you need guidance or advice about how to reduce your alcohol consumption, check out, an American Addictions Center resource.

Individuals who experience frequent or severe heartburn should also speak with their health care provider about ways to control their GERD or acid reflux to reduce their risk of developing esophageal cancer.

For more information about esophageal cancer, visit NFCR’s Stomach and Esophageal Cancers webpage. To learn about other healthy behaviors that can help reduce your risk for developing not only esophageal cancer, but also a range of other cancers, check out NFCR’s blog post about eight proactive cancer-preventing pointers.


  1. REPLY
    Anna Gianfrancesco says

    Weeks After completing radiation why is patient experiencing pain at the bottom of the esophagus after she has swallowed food.

  2. REPLY
    Cheryl Condrey says

    I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and acid reflux over 10 years ago. Have not had another upper GI since. I’m having spinal problems in every disc neck and back. Being sent to neurosurgeon. But I’ve complained about swelling in the hollow above collar bone. No one knows what it is. Family Dr said she did not think it was a tumor since she felt no edges. The MRI on cervical area also showed a swelling. I asked Dr about it & he said that was not along the area I show swelling every one can see but it’s actually my esophagus. What are my odds? Should they send me to have a different test?

  3. REPLY
    Gloria says

    Nutcracker esophagus was the diagnosis they gave me. I do have hiatal hernia GERD Gastritis Pepcid ulcer and polyps

    • REPLY
      Every time I get an upper G.I. doc thinks I have cancer. So far I’m lucky. I’m thinking about getting surgery to fix a hiatal hernia. Does anyone have any experience with this type of surgery? Thank you says

      I have and hiatal hernia and gerd. Every time I get an upper G.I. doc thinks I have cancer. So far I’m lucky. I’m thinking about getting surgery to fix a hiatal hernia. Does anyone have any experience with this type of surgery? Thank you

      • REPLY
        Hutch says

        My name is Hutch

  4. REPLY
    Gloria says

    You should have endoscopy every 6 months

  5. REPLY
    Nancy Porter says

    I think I may have ulcers in my esophagus. I have problems swallowing my food and some meds. When I eat, the food I swallowing gets hung up in my throat, mid chest and upper stomach. I drink water and it gets worst., I’ll start gagging..
    Takes 1-2 minutes to go down, meanwhile the pain is excruciating.
    It feels like I need someone to give me a Heimlich maneuver to move it.
    it time to see a doctor ?
    Also I can eat anything, I don’t gain weight. ” No, NOT Lucky me..”

    • REPLY
      Spake Spakehustra says

      I had the same severe problems swallowing, at times almost choking unable to breathe because made mistakes of trying to “wash it down” with water, only to have water just fill back up to air passage and start death choke/gag/force vomit panic to breathe. Diagnosed with Schotzki’s ring, esophageal stricture, they essentially put an inflatable tube down your throat and inflate to stretch out the “stricture”. Also have hiatal hernia and gets.

      • REPLY
        Janet says

        I’m do sorry . I’m going through the same. Now I crush my pills and take them in apple sauce. I have panicked a few times and called 911.

      • REPLY
        Hutch says

        I have Gerd and hiatal hernia my dog thinks I’m going to get cancer. I’m considering having a hiatal hernia fixed. Have you looked into this do you know anyone that’s had the surgery done I heard it doesn’t last

  6. REPLY
    Alfa Gastro & Liver Care says

    thank you for sharing very useful information about
    Barrett’s Esophagus everyone should read these blog.

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