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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Esophageal Cancer: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Cancers and Tumors

Esophageal Cancer

Alternate Names : Cancer of the Esophagus

Esophageal Cancer | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the disease?

Persons who have metastases that cannot be cured with surgery may still benefit from radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Radiation does not help if the cancer has spread to the liver or lungs.

Chemotherapy has short-term benefit for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It can be combined with radiation therapy. It involves toxic drugs, and the potential benefit must be balanced with the side effects.

Surgery of the esophagus can be complicated. It may involve removing the esophagus, stomach, spleen, and lymph nodes inside the chest. Another part of the lower bowel or stomach can be pulled up and attached to the remaining esophagus. This allows the person to continue eating. People need to be in relatively good health to tolerate this surgery.

Whether preoperative chemotherapy and radiation therapy can improve the cure rate with this extensive surgery is controversial and under study.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Following are some of the side effects of radiation:

  • burning of the skin
  • damage to the heart or lungs
  • irritation of the esophagus
  • loss of appetite
  • more difficulty swallowing
  • nausea
  • Side effects of chemotherapy include the following:

  • anemia, or a low red blood cell count
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss
  • increased susceptibility to infection
  • irritation of the mouth and intestines
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Surgery alone is associated with a 5% to 10% mortality rate. Side effects include bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    It may take several months to recover from treatment. The person who may be cured can live a relatively normal lifestyle. He or she may not be able to eat certain foods. He or she also may not be able to absorb iron and vitamins or certain foods. Most people, if they survive, do not have long-term effects from chemotherapy or radiation.

    How is the disease monitored?

    Esophageal cancer is monitored with physical exams, lab tests, endoscopies, chest X-rays, and CAT scans or MRIs. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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    Esophageal Cancer: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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