Esophageal Cancer

Early detection is key to treating cancer of the esophagus. The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute team is not only finding this cancer earlier, but also treating it less invasively.

When esophageal cancer is found early, we often can avoid surgery to remove the esophagus, which significantly affects the patient’s quality of life. Instead, our specialists offer nationally recognized treatments and access to the latest protocols through our affiliation with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the country’s premier cancer centers.


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Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

Early stage esophageal cancer often does not cause symptoms.

As the disease progresses, symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Increased difficulty swallowing solid foods
  • Epigastric pain (pain in the upper abdomen immediately below the ribs)
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the stool or vomiting blood

Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer

Because esophageal cancer doesn’t produce symptoms early, it’s important to recognize risk factors, such as acid reflux and screen people at risk. Doing so has helped our esophageal cancer screening initiatives find more cancers at earlier stages when they are more treatable.

Tests examining the esophagus help diagnose esophageal cancer:

  • Esophagoscopy: A special scope is inserted through the mouth or nose and down the throat into the esophagus. Examining the esophagus and stomach is called an upper endoscopy.
  • Biopsy: Cells or tissues may be removed so a pathologist can check under a microscope for signs of cancer. The biopsy is usually done during an esophagoscopy.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound: A special scope inserted into the esophagus performs an ultrasound to determine the stage of your cancer. The ultrasound helps measure the depth of a tumor and identifies malignant lymph nodes that require a biopsy.
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) Series: The patient swallows a barium liquid that flows through the esophagus and into the stomach. X-rays look for abnormal areas.
  • Chest CT Scan
  • Chest X-Ray

Treating Esophageal Cancer

The Cancer Institute offers the latest treatment options for esophageal cancer, including endoscopic techniques available at only a few centers across the country. These allow a patient to keep their esophagus and have significantly shortened hospital stays with minimal or no pain.

Treatments include:

  • Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA): Treating pre-malignant conditions like Barrett’s esophagus with RFA helps prevent them from becoming esophageal cancer. Our team performs the most RFA procedures in Connecticut, and the second-most in New England.
  • Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection (ESD): The Cancer Institute is among the few centers in the country offering ESD, an innovative procedure that can cure most cases of early-stage esophageal cancer without removing the esophagus.
    • With this technique, our specialists use an endoscope to remove small, relatively superficial esophageal cancer lesions as large as 2.75 inches. This gives patients a cure and improved quality of life.
    • The standard of care elsewhere is esophageal removal. Patients often return home the day after their procedure. With small, early cancers, it’s possible to go home the same day.
  • Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy: When tumors are too deep for ESD, this technique allows us to remove tumors through several small incisions in the abdomen and chest. The procedure offers a faster recovery and less pain than traditional techniques. 

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance

We offer the latest treatments through our ongoing membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Alliance, which gives you access to the latest standards of care and clinical trials.

The MSK Alliance

Esophageal Cancer News

April 04, 2021

Step by Step to a Cure for Esophageal Cancer Patients

Dr. Stefan Kachala Director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology Hartford HealthCare Central Region We are living in a new era of [...]

August 10, 2020

The Connection Between Acid Reflux and Cancer

Acid reflux affects millions of people, but you may not know that acid reflux over time could turn to cancer. [...]

July 29, 2020

American Cancer Society: Drinking Coffee Can Prevent Some Cancers

All this time we’ve spent thinking of ways to avoid cancer and an answer is sitting in front of us [...]

July 05, 2018

Can Acid Reflux Cause Cancer?

Acid reflux is that burning feeling in your chest or throat that sometimes happens after you eat. It’s a common [...]

April 05, 2018

A New Procedure for Patients with Esophageal Cancer

A new procedure for patients with esophageal cancer is offering promising results. Dr. Stefan Kachala, a thoracic surgeon at the Hartford [...]

February 02, 2017

New Endoscopic Procedures, Via Japan, For Colon, Stomach And Esophageal Cancers

Hartford HealthCare News Service Dr. Michael Karasik, a gastroenterologist at Hartford Hospital, previews minimally invasive endoscopic procedures for colon, stomach [...]

Support at the Cancer Institute

The Cancer Institute offers whatever you and your family need on your journey, whether it’s access to an oncology social worker, a nurse navigator to coordinate your care or the support of our Patient and Family Resource Center.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute