What Can I Do if I'm at Risk for Esophageal Cancer?

The first step to lowering your risk for esophageal cancer is to identify your risk factors. Then you can decide which risks you can and cannot control. These are some of the steps you can take to help lower your risk for esophageal cancer:

  • Quit using any form of tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke.

  • Stop drinking alcohol.

  • Eat well-balanced meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Avoid or reduce obesity.

  • If you have frequent heartburn or have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), work with your health care provider to control your symptoms. Talk with your health care provider about endoscopic screening to detect precancerous changes in the lining of your esophagus. The cell changes are the primary risk factors for the adenocarcinoma type of esophageal cancer.

  • If you have Barrett's esophagus, talk with your health care provider about medications that may help prevent its progression. Talk with your health care provider about regular screening to look for changes in the lining of your esophagus.

  • Watch for the symptoms of esophageal cancer (such as trouble swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, or hoarseness). Be aware, however, that symptoms don't usually develop until the cancer is fairly advanced.

Making these changes can be hard, but you don't have to make them alone. Your health care provider can suggest resources to help. Look for counselors or self-help groups in your area. Find other people who have been able to make these changes. Ask for ideas about what worked for them. Meet with a dietitian to learn about healthier ways to eat.