Esophageal disorders can affect your ability to eat, sleep and enjoy life. Symptoms may include acid reflux, regurgitation of undigested food, difficulty swallowing, persistent heartburn and upper abdominal pain. Tell your doctor if you have prolonged indigestion that has not improved with medication. A gastroenterologist can determine the cause of your symptoms and help you find treatment for esophageal disorders.
After completing a physical exam and reviewing your medical history, your gastroenterologist may order the following tests to determine the cause of your symptoms:
With state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment, there is no better place for esophageal cancer care than Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Our high volumes and survival outcomes that exceed national and international averages speak to the experience and expertise of our team. The Thoracic Oncology Tumor Board—a group of experts from thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, gastroenterology, radiology and pathology—reviews individual cases.
Our specialists work together to provide the highest quality, integrated care for esophageal cancer and gastric cancer. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapies using antibodies to target specific molecules within cancer cells.
Cancer Service Line Video – Dr. Donald Low:
Once the cause of your symptoms has been determined, your gastroenterologist can determine the best treatment options for you, which may include:
Your doctor may recommend making changes to your diet or lifestyle to manage symptoms, such as:
Medications for esophageal conditions may include antibiotics to treat infection, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids and promotility agents, a type of medication that promotes movement through the GI tract.
If surgery is needed, your gastroenterologist and surgeon will discuss your options and recommend minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures whenever possible:
Barrett’s esophagus is a disorder of the lining of the lower esophagus caused by persistent gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD is the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, which causes a sour taste and a burning sensation in the throat. Screening and prevention are important aspects of care because individuals with Barrett's are at a significantly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. Learn more
Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are all options in the treatment of thoracic/esophageal cancer. A multidisciplinary team of specialists create a plan of care unique to each person and his or her particular form of cancer. This treatment plan is consistently evaluated and adjusted as needed. Learn more
Eosinophilic esophagitis, also known as EE or EoE, is an allergic, inflammatory condition where the wall of the esophagus becomes filled with eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. This buildup is often a reaction to foods, allergens or acid reflux, and can injure esophageal tissue, leading to difficulty swallowing. Learn more
Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, begins when mucus-producing cells in the inner lining of the stomach begin to divide without stopping. These cells can grow slowly into a tumor over the course of many years. Many symptoms of gastric cancer are easily ignored since they cause only modest discomfort. That is why gastric cancer often advances before being detected. Learn more
GERD is a common disorder affecting more than 17 million adults and children. It occurs when stomach contents and acid flush back up into the esophagus causing irritation and inflammation in the esophageal lining. Learn more
Gastroparesis is a medical term for delayed emptying of stomach contents. The condition is common among people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and may be caused by damage to the vagus nerve that extends from the brain to the stomach. Learn more
When an internal body part pushes into another area of the body, it’s called a hernia. Hiatal hernias commonly occur when the upper stomach moves from the abdominal cavity through the diaphragm, over the lower part of the esophagus, and up into the chest cavity. Learn more
A peptic ulcer is a variably painful open sore that forms when acid erodes the inner lining of the digestive system. When a peptic ulcer occurs in the stomach, it’s called a gastric ulcer. When it’s located in the upper part of the small intestine, it’s called a duodenal ulcer. Learn more
The small intestine is the organ that absorbs nutrients from food such as fats, carbohydrates and vitamins during digestion. Short bowel syndrome means that part or all of the small intestine is missing or has been surgically bypassed, leading to the body being unable to process all of the dietary nutrients it needs to function properly. Learn more
Swallowing disorders can occur for any number of reasons, including conditions affecting the esophagus such as cancer, strictures, rings or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or from other problems such as stroke, diabetes and scleroderma. Motility is the movement of food and liquid by the esophagus muscles down the esophagus and into the stomach. Learn more
If you have symptoms of an esophageal disorder, such as acid reflux or difficulty swallowing, our gastroenterologists can help.