Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month takes place in April. Its purpose is to raise awareness about esophageal cancer and campaign for research funding.

People who develop esophageal cancer often do not know they have it until the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. As a result, esophageal cancer has one of the least favorable outlooks of all cancer types.

Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month is an important time to get funding organizations and the public to take notice of this serious disease so researchers can continue their work to find better treatments.

This article explains what Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month is, when it is, and why it is important. It will also detail the symptoms of esophageal cancer, the treatments, and the outlook.

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April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) uses Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month to highlight its research projects that aim to prevent esophageal cancer.

The month also gives people with esophageal cancer and their loved ones a chance to raise awareness about the disease and raise funds to help find better treatments.

What is esophageal cancer?

The esophagus is the food pipe, a long tube made of muscle that connects a person’s throat to their stomach.

Esophageal cancer can form when cells in the lining of the esophagus, known as the mucous membrane, start to grow uncontrollably and abnormally.

This can happen in the squamous cells in squamous cell carcinoma or in the glandular cells in adenocarcinoma. The cancer can then grow into the other layers of the esophagus, including the muscle and connective tissue.

Learn more about esophageal cancer.

According to IARC estimates, in 2018, almost 573,000 people received a new diagnosis of esophageal cancer, and more than 508,000 died from this cancer worldwide.

This makes esophageal cancer the eighth most common type of cancer but the sixth most common cause of cancer death globally.

Of all types of cancer, esophageal cancer is among those with the least favorable outlooks.

People can take part in Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month in several ways, such as by raising money, volunteering, spreading the word, and donating money.

Host a fundraising event

A person can use the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) online event platform to host an event and raise funds. The platform acts as a hub for the event, helping the organizer to keep their friends, family, and community updated about the event’s progress.

An event can be anything from a walk or run to a comedy night or art exhibition.


The nonprofit organization EC Aware provides volunteering opportunities at various levels. A person can volunteer for an hour or for a day or even become part of the organization’s central team.

Spread the word

ECAN also provides packs to help a person host an awareness event. Each pack includes print-your-own signs, awareness leaflets, and balloons, with the option to include banners, table runners, T-shirts, and more.


A person can make a tax-deductible donation to ECAN or EC Aware to help them raise awareness about esophageal cancer and advocate for research funding.

Advocates from ECAN have been campaigning to get the United States Congress to include esophageal cancer in the Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program of the Department of Defense.

They have been successful for 4 consecutive years. This means that esophageal cancer research funding has increased by almost $14 million, which equates to an increase of 15% per year.

Social media

A person can join esophageal cancer advocacy groups on social media and share information and events to help raise awareness and campaign for funding. A person may wish to visit the Facebook page of ECAN or EC Aware.

Esophageal cancer develops when cells in the inner lining of the esophagus start to grow uncontrollably.

Key stats

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 21,560 people in the United States will receive a new diagnosis of esophageal cancer in 2023 and that 16,120 people will die from esophageal cancer.

According to this estimate, esophageal cancer would account for 1.1% of all new cases of cancer and 2.6% of all deaths from cancer in the United States in 2023.

Symptoms and causes

Symptoms that could indicate that a person has esophageal cancer include:

  • difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
  • weight loss
  • pain behind the breastbone
  • hoarseness and coughing
  • indigestion and heartburn
  • a lump under the skin

A person has an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer if they:

  • use tobacco
  • drink alcohol to excess
  • have Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which abnormal cells that could become cancerous begin to replace some cells in the esophagus (heartburn is a common cause of this condition)
  • are 55 years old or older

Treatment and outlook

A person’s outlook and treatment options will depend on:

  • how advanced the cancer is
  • whether a surgeon can completely remove the tumor
  • their general state of health

The earlier a person receives a diagnosis, the better their chances of recovery will be. However, many people do not receive an esophageal cancer diagnosis until the cancer is advanced. Doctors can treat late stage esophageal cancer but can rarely cure it.

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: removing part of the esophagus and either joining the rest of the esophagus to the stomach or replacing the removed portion with a small connecting tube called a stent
  • Radiation therapy: use of radiation to kill the cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy: use of medications to stop the cancer cells from growing.
  • Chemoradiation therapy: a combination of radiation and chemotherapy
  • Laser therapy: use of a laser beam to kill the cancer cells
  • Electrocoagulation: use of an electric current to kill the cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy: use of substances, either synthetic or made in the body, to support the immune system in fighting cancer

Medical researchers are also carrying out clinical trials on the possibility of using targeted therapy to treat esophageal cancer.

Learn more about the outlook for esophageal cancer.

People currently in treatment for esophageal cancer may find the answers to questions they may have on the EC Aware website.

ECAN also provides a range of resources for people with esophageal cancer, including information on clinical trials, online community support, and a downloadable patient guide.

Esophageal cancer has one of the least favorable outlooks of all cancer types because people often do not experience symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month is an important time for raising awareness about the disease among members of the public and people in charge of research spending.

Anyone can take part in the monthlong event, such as by hosting a fundraising event, volunteering with a nonprofit organization, or donating.

People with esophageal cancer who are looking for answers to questions they have or community support can visit the websites of esophageal cancer organizations such as EC Aware and ECAN.