Why choose us for esophageal cancer care?
Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, is one of the few programs in South Texas using a team approach for esophageal cancer. You receive coordinated treatments from surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who excel in treating this condition.
Your care may also include services from dietitians, speech therapists and physical therapists. These specialists understand the unique needs of people with esophageal cancer and tailor services to your needs. All of our experts meet weekly to keep your treatments on track.
Esophageal cancer can affect both the throat and the digestive system. We deliver expert treatment through our gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and lung cancer programs.
What you need to know about esophageal cancer
- Your esophagus is a tube that starts at the back of your throat. When you swallow food or liquids, a series of muscles move it along until it reaches your stomach.
- Esophageal cancer is an abnormal growth in the lining of the esophagus. As the cancer grows, it may spread to deeper layers of tissue or other organs.
- One of the biggest risk factors for esophageal cancer is Barrett’s esophagus. This condition occurs when ongoing heartburn (reflux) causes permanent changes to the lining of the esophagus. Other risks include drinking too much alcohol and being obese.
How to talk to your doctor about esophageal cancer
To get the most out of your care, we encourage you to learn as much as you can about your diagnosis and treatment options. Mays Cancer Center doctors provide you with all the information you need.
You might want to ask your doctor about:
- Additional testing you may need to further evaluate the cancer, including its precise size and location
- Cancer stage, which is how serious the cancer is and whether it has spread to nearby organs
- Treatment options and the order in which you may receive them, such as chemotherapy before surgery
- Potential treatment side effects and how we help you get relief
- Support for coping with the ways esophageal cancer may affect your body and mind
Keeping up with appointments and at-home care instructions can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Many patients ask family members or trusted friends for assistance. Our doctors are happy to include your loved ones in care discussions, when appropriate.
We treat many types of esophageal cancer:
- Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of esophageal cancer. It develops in the tissue lining the inside of the esophagus, usually in the lower esophagus, closer to the stomach. Adenocarcinoma typically occurs in people with Barrett’s esophagus.
- Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in thin, flat cells in the upper esophagus near the back of the throat. People who drink heavily or regularly use tobacco are at risk for this type of esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer symptoms include:
- Burning sensation in your chest
- Choking on food
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarse voice
- Pain behind your breastbone
- Unexpected weight loss
There are many tests for diagnosing esophageal cancer. Our team of experts recommends the options that are available for you. Your care may include imaging studies such as an ultrasound or positron emission tomography (PET) scan. We may also recommend a biopsy, which is a procedure to remove a tissue sample. Read more about diagnosing cancer.
Our team includes specialists who help ensure an accurate diagnosis, including:
- Cancer pathologists who examine tissue samples under a microscope to confirm a cancer diagnosis and how serious it is
- Radiologists who evaluate imaging studies to determine the precise location of the cancer and help plan treatments
Esophageal cancer treatment often requires surgery. Our team includes an esophageal cancer surgeon and other experienced specialists. Your care may include minimally invasive surgery, which uses small incisions for treatments that are gentler on your body. Our experienced surgeons perform a high volume of these procedures, leading to a high level of precision.
You may also receive care from chemotherapy experts (medical oncologists) and radiation oncologists who treat a high volume of esophageal cancer patients. Learn more about cancer treatments.
Treatments and their side effects may make talking, eating and swallowing difficult. You can get help from a local speech pathologist who offers speech and swallow therapy. Our team can refer you to a speech pathologist.
Research and clinical trials
Cancer research efforts at Mays Cancer Center are giving more patients hope for healing. Our efforts are advancing all aspects of cancer care, including diagnosis, treatment and supportive therapies for eligible patients. Read more about cancer clinical trials and research.
Make an appointment
Take the first step by visiting our cancer experts for testing, a second opinion or to learn about treatment options.
View esophageal cancer clinical trial opportunities
Clinical trials help researchers evaluate new therapies before making them available to the public. Mays Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Central and South Texas, which gives you early access to clinical trials, if you are eligible.
Meet our team
Our team includes cancer experts from different medical specialties who share a commitment to delivering precise, personalized care.