About esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Your esophagus is 10--13 inches long. It carries food to the stomach for digestion. The wall of the esophagus is made up of several layers, and cancers generally start in inner layer and grow out.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 17,990 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013 and 15,210 people will die from this disease.
At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, our doctors are uniquely skilled and experienced at treating esophageal cancer. As a high volume center in the treatment of patients diagnosed with this cancer, our team has a wealth of experience in esophageal cancer management. We have developed an aggressive and comprehensive treatment approach leading to increasing number of regional referrals to OHSU for cancers of the esophagus.
Your multidisciplinary team will include surgeons, medical oncologists , radiation oncologists and other healthcare providers who will work together to develop the best treatment plan for your esophageal cancer. We meet weekly to discuss all of our patients, and your treatment is reviewed by the entire team.
Esophageal Cancer Treatment Options
The best treatment plan for your esophageal cancer will be based on factors such as:
- Your age, health and medical history
- How much cancer is in your esophagus and whether or not it has spread
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures or treatments
- How well the doctor expects your cancer to respond to treatment
- Your opinions and preferences
Depending on your treatment plan, you may have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these to treat your esophageal cancer:
Surgery is commonly performed to treat esophageal cancer. Surgery to remove part or most of the esophagus is called an esophagectomy. An esophagectomy may be performed to remove part of the esophagus and nearby lymph nodes. If the cancer has spread to the lower part of the esophagus, the top of the stomach may also be removed during surgery. The remaining portion of the esophagus is then reconnected to the stomach.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy works by keeping cancer cells from growing or reproducing. Different drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Your medical oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for you.
Studies have shown that chemotherapy after surgery can increase the survival rate for some esophageal cancer patients. Chemotherapy can also help relieve symptoms of advanced esophageal cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams that penetrate deep into the body to safely and effectively treat esophageal cancer. This treatment can also be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain caused by cancer.
Radiation works by damaging cancer cells so that they cannot reproduce and eventually die. When cancer cells die, the body removes them naturally over time. Your body’s healthy cells are also sensitive to radiation. However, normal cells can repair radiation damage, while cancer cells cannot.
Radiation can also be used to relieve symptoms such as pain caused by esophageal cancer.