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Esophageal Cancer

Nearly 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with esophageal cancer every year. This cancer is three times more common in men than in women, and most people are diagnosed in their 60s. The two most common types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. UC San Diego Health treats all cancers of the esophagus, and primarily sees patients with adenocarcinoma, which is the most common type in the U.S.

Our esophageal cancer doctors make a diagnosis using endoscopy, in which a miniature camera placed in the mouth and down the throat, as well as specialized x-ray techniques.

Treatment for Esophageal Cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment for esophageal cancer. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy is often done before surgery to shrink the tumor. This is called neoadjuvant therapy.

UC San Diego Health esophageal cancer doctors are leaders in treating the condition with a minimally invasive procedure called RATE (robot assisted transhiatal esophagectomy). The benefits include:

  • Minimal blood loss
  • Minimal complications
  • Shorter length of operation
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery
  • Equivalent or better cancer outcomes to open esophagectomy

Our team of internationally renowned esophageal surgeons is led by Santiago Horgan, MD, chief of minimally invasive surgery,  and Michael Bouvet, MD, surgical oncologist and chief of endocrine surgery.

Using robotic surgical techniques and an abdominal (transhiatal) approach, the surgeons detach the esophagus from where it joins the stomach. A new esophagus is created by forming a tube out of a portion of the stomach. Any lymph nodes near the esophagus that may be cancerous are removed.

The delicate separation of the esophagus at the throat is performed, carefully preserving endocrine and vocal function. The newly formed esophagus is pulled up from the stomach and attached at the throat.

The operation takes approximately four hours and the length of stay in the hospital is typically one week. Our experience with this procedure is that recovery is much easier for patients compared to open esophagectomy.

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