MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Cancer Institute and the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute are joining organizations around the world this April to recognize Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. An estimated 17,290 people in the U.S. are living with esophageal cancer.

“Esophageal cancer is aggressive, but early detection and prevention can greatly improve patient outcomes,” Ghulam Abbas, M.D., director of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute Center for Esophageal Disease, said. “There has been a nearly 500 percent increase in the incidence of esophageal cancer in the U.S. over the last few decades, and most of the patients are middle-aged Caucasian males.”

The esophagus is the long, muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancers begin in the lining of the esophagus before spreading outward into the other layers. 

The most common risk factors for esophageal cancer are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and obesity, and it occurs most frequently in men. Ten percent of all patients with GERD have a pre-cancerous condition, known as Barrett’s esophagus, which may progress over the years into cancer.

“In my clinical career, I have seen this disease change from a deadly diagnosis to one when treated appropriately and aggressively by a multidisciplinary team, the disease is curable,” Percival Buenaventura, M.D., WVU Heart and Vascular Institute thoracic surgeon, who practices in Morgantown and Wheeling, said. “We here at WVU offer the most advanced chemo-radiation protocols and perform surgery minimally invasively. This is in line with the other great cancer care hospitals in the U.S.”

About the WVU Cancer Institute

The WVU Cancer Institute – located at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, WVU Medicine’s flagship hospital, and at seven locations across the state – provides comprehensive cancer care to patients in West Virginia and across Appalachia. For more information, visit

About the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute Center for Esophageal Disease

The WVU Medicine Center for Lung and Esophageal Disease specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of esophageal conditions using state-of-the-art diagnostic tests and cutting-edge endoscopic, minimally invasive, and robotic surgical interventions. For more information, visit

For more information: Heather Sammons, Communications Specialist, 304-285-7256