Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, recently died from complications arising from esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest-rising forms of cancer and, unfortunately, it is rarely diagnosed early. The form of cancer which killed Ann Richards, squamous cell, is often associated with a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use – both were a part of Ann Richards’ medical history. In addition to a history of alcohol and tobacco use, patients with chronic heart burn – or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are at a higher risk for esophageal cancer.

The best way to screen for esophageal cancer is with an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, the patient is sedated while a lighted tube is passed down the throat to look for changes which might signal cancer. The procedure costs about $1,000 and many health insurance policies pay for the procedure. Early diagnosis of esophageal cancer makes a dramatic difference in survival because patients can qualify for surgical removal of the esophagus and surrounding lymph nodes. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found a 81% five year survival rate for those patient’s whose esophageal cancer was diagnosed in the early stages.

The lesson: request an endoscopy to screen for esophageal cancer if you are 50 or older and have the risk factors listed above.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at