Alternate Names : Cancer of the Esophagus
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
Side effects of chemotherapy include the following:
anemia, or a low red blood cell count
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.