Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month helps spread information about esophageal cancer. This type of cancer affects the esophagus, the tube that food travels through from the mouth to the stomach.

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Esophageal cancer happens when tumors grow anywhere along the esophagus, the muscular tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach.

If this type of cancer is detected early, treatment may be effective and the outlook is better. But most people do not receive a diagnosis until esophageal cancer is in the later stages.

During April, which is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, people wear periwinkle-colored clothing or ribbons to show their support.

Learn more about esophageal cancer.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting esophageal cancer awareness from the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Network (ECANS):

  • Petition your state to officially declare April Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Wear periwinkle, the color of esophageal cancer awareness.
  • Participate in one of ECAN’s Virtual Steps to Save Lives 5K in the month of April.
  • Light up the night sky in periwinkle blue by contacting the managers of a building, bridge, or landmark in a city near you. Here’s ECAN’s list of potential sites likely to light up for esophageal cancer awareness in every state.
  • Share your story with local media outlets.
  • Consider hosting an awareness event or displaying a yard sign.

Fast Facts About Esophageal Cancer

With early diagnosis, esophageal cancer is treatable. Often, though, esophageal cancer is diagnosed in late stages. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS):

  • Of people who receive a diagnosis of localized esophageal cancer, 47% survive at least 5 years.
  • Of people who receive a diagnosis of distant or metastatic esophageal cancer, 6% survive 5 years. Many people with esophageal cancer receive a diagnosis at a later stage.
  • While esophageal cancer is considered a rare disease, more people die each year from esophageal cancer than from melanoma, skin cancer, or cervical cancer
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The esophagus is the hollow, muscular tube that leads from your mouth to your stomach. It’s located between your spine and your windpipe. There is a ring of muscle tissue at the top and bottom of this multi-layered, 10- to 14-inch tube.

Cancer of the esophagus happens when the cells lining the esophagus grow out of control. It can occur at any point in the esophagus and usually grows from the inner layer to the outer layers. There are three main types of esophageal cancer:


Cancers that start in cells that make mucus (gland cells) are called adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are often found in the lower third of the esophagus (lower thoracic esophagus).

In some people with other conditions, such as Barrett’s esophagus, gland cells begin to replace the squamous cells in the lower part of the esophagus, and this might lead to adenocarcinoma.

This is because, with these types of conditions, stomach acid refluxes into the lower esophagus. This eventually changes the gland cells in that area, making them more likely to become cancerous.

In other cases, gastroesophageal junction tumors are stomach tumors that appear near where the esophagus connects to the stomach. But they behave more like adenocarcinoma esophageal cancer than stomach cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that affects the outermost layer of the lining of the esophagus. Though it can occur anywhere along the esophagus, it usually occurs in the upper esophagus, in the neck region.

This was once the most common type of esophageal cancer, but now around 30% of people with esophageal cancer have this type.

Rare esophageal cancers

A few other cancers not esophageal cancer but do start in the esophagus. These rare cancers include:

People with esophageal cancer do not usually receive a diagnosis until they have signs or symptoms, which may not appear until the cancer is at a late stage.

These signs and symptoms include:

The outlook for individuals with esophageal cancer depends on many factors, such as where the tumor is in the body, whether it has spread to other areas, and how it responds to treatment.

Based on people who have had esophageal cancer in the past, the NCI estimates that 5-year survival rates for people with esophageal cancer range from 5% to 47%. If the cancer is found early, when it is small, the outlook is better.

What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer?

According to the ACS, the main risk factors for esophageal cancer are:

What is the color of the ribbon for esophageal cancer?

The ribbon color for esophageal cancer is periwinkle. Periwinkle is a blueish-purple color.

Can I prevent esophageal cancer?

According to the NCI, avoiding or stopping smoking, limiting your alcohol consumption if you drink, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting enough exercise are the best ways to reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. During April, there are opportunities to show your support for individuals with esophageal cancer, like participating in one of ECAN’s Virtual Steps to Save Lives 5K or wearing periwinkle clothing or a periwinkle awareness ribbon.

Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed later than other cancers, so it’s important to understand the risk factors. Reach out to a doctor if you have any symptoms of esophageal cancer.