Difficulty swallowing or the feeling of choking while eating is the most common symptom of an esophageal disorder. Other symptoms may include indigestion or heartburn, chest pain or pain in the upper back, chronic cough, hoarseness or unexplained weight loss.

Esophageal Cancer

Patients with early stage esophageal cancer often have minimal symptoms. Unfortunately, symptoms usually become apparent in an advanced stage of this disease. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination – quite often chemotherapy and radiation is used before surgery to shrink the tumor before it is removed. There are several types of surgery for esophageal cancer. What is best for you will depend on the type, location, and extent of your disease, as well as your overall health. Your treatment plan may call for chemotherapy after surgery as well.

Benign Esophageal and Foregut Disorders

One of the more common benign esophageal disorders is a hiatal hernia. A type 1 hiatal hernia is a condition in which the stomach pushes through the opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus joins the stomach. The other type of hiatal hernia is called a paraesophageal hernia. This condition occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes up into the chest adjacent to the esophagus. The most common symptom of hiatal hernia is heartburn or regurgitation – a backflow of stomach content into the esophagus. Medications can usually relieve these symptoms, although a large hiatal hernia or one that is not successfully treated with medication may require surgery.

Hernias can be surgically corrected using a minimally invasive laparoscopic approach. The surgeon makes several tiny incisions in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope (miniature video camera) and surgical instruments. The camera sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. While watching the monitor, the surgeon uses the instruments to perform the surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery shortens the hospital stay for the patient, and normal activity can usually be resumed after a few days at home. Because the abdominal muscles are not cut as in open surgery, patients have less pain and fewer complications.

Other benign esophageal disorders we treat at Milford Regional include but are not limited to zenkers, diverticulum, achalasia, and benign esophageal stricture.

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