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Clearing your treatment path from point A to point B

The esophagus is like the bridge of the digestive system, helping food get from point A (your mouth) to point B (your stomach). It's also responsible for keeping your airways clear. Because of its central location, cancerous cells can spread quickly and have a big impact on your quality of life.

Living with esophageal cancer can feel overwhelming. But while you're under our care, we'll make sure that managing pain and staying nourished — both nutritionally and emotionally — is at the heart of your unique treatment path.

Greg Schumaker, MD (Medical Director at Lowell General Hospital's ICU, Section Chief of Critical Care, Adult Sleep Medicine) talking to a family member in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
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There are two main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. The main difference between them is where the cancerous cells are located:

  1. Squamous cell carcinoma: Tumors are located along the upper and middle portions of the esophagus. Squamous cells are thin, flat tumors that can appear in other conditions related to the skin and respiratory system.
  2. Adenocarcinomas: The cancer is located in the lower esophagus and stomach.

Esophageal cancer symptoms

Esophageal cancer often develops without any early symptoms. That's why it's challenging to pinpoint a diagnosis until the cancer has already spread.

If you're experiencing these symptoms, talk with your doctor as soon as possible:

Chest pain behind the breastbone
Difficult or painful swallowing
Weight loss


Early detection and diagnosis is the name of the game when it comes to esophageal cancer. That's why we quickly arrange for the tests you need to learn more about your condition and how advanced it is.

We'll turn to the following tests to understand how your esophageal cancer is impacting your health:

  • Barium swallow: Involves drinking a barium solution followed by a series of X-rays of your upper digestive system. The barium solution illuminates your digestive system like a highlighter, producing clearer pictures on the X-rays.
  • Biopsy: A small tissue sample from the esophagus is removed and analyzed for cancerous cells.
  • CT scan: This helps identify where the cancer is located, and if it has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Endoscopy: We'll pass a thin tube with a tiny camera and light down your throat to examine your esophagus and stomach.


We’ll assemble our brightest minds in medicine to treat your esophageal cancer, including specialists from surgery, oncology, radiation oncology, pulmonology and gastroenterology specialists. Together, we’ll coordinate treatment and put you on a personalized path to wellness.

Depending on the size and location of your cancer, we may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Targeted radiation therapy


What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer?

Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:

Esophageal cancer is more common among men, assigned males at birth (AMABs) and older adults.

Anasuya Gunturi MD, PhD talks with patient at Lowell General Hospital's Women's Wellness Center clinic appointment.
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