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 16,470 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2009 and 14,530 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 esophageal cancer.
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 you. We meet weekly to discuss all of our patients, and your treatment is reviewed by the entire team.
Your doctor will determine the best treatment for you, based on:
- Your age, health and medical history
- How much cancer there is and whether it has spread
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures or treatments
- How well the doctor expects the disease to respond to treatment
- Your opinions and preferences
Your treatment might include:
Two types of surgery are commonly done to treat esophageal cancer. In one type, part of the esophagus and nearby lymph nodes are removed, and the remaining portion of the esophagus is reconnected to the stomach. In the other surgery, the top of the stomach is also removed. 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 patients with esophageal cancer. Chemotherapy can also help relieve symptoms of advanced cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams that penetrate deep into the body to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. 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.
Depending on your treatment plan, you may have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation or a combination of these to treat your esophageal cancer.