In addition to cancer, swallowing disorders may also be caused by stroke, scar tissue around the circumference of the esophagus, achalasia (a tight sphincter where the stomach meets the esophagus), benign tumors, birth defects, gastrointestinal disorders and head and neck injuries. Elderly people who have suffered from a stroke are the most common swallowing disorder patients. Swallowing disorders occur when food won't travel into the stomach or goes instead into the lungs.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain with swallowing
- Food sticking in the throat
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Repeated episodes of heartburn (GERD)
A swallowing disorder is typically diagnosed through x-ray and endoscopy, which involves looking at the esophagus with a lighted, flexible scope. In some cases, manometry (which uses a catheter to measure the muscle function of the esophagus) also may be used.
Patients seeking treatment for swallowing disorders at CHI Health Clinic Esophageal Center will be seen not only by one of three qualified surgeons who specialize in swallowing disorders, but may also benefit from consultations with a gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, ear, nose and throat specialist and speech therapist, when appropriate.
Per-Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM)
POEM is a minimally-invasive endoscopic procedure for patients with esophageal motility and swallowing disorders. Talk to your primary care provider about a referral if you think you may be a candidate for POEM.