Treatment will depend on the type of esophageal cancer you have, the stage it is at, where it is, and your overall health. It is important to understand why you have been recommended a particular treatment type. Esophageal cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. The treatments can be given by themselves or in combination.
The treatment can be used to cure the cancer or with the aim of controlling the cancer and relieving symptoms if there is no possible cure.
When planning the treatment, the esophagus is considered to have three different sections: upper, middle, and lower.
- DIET BEFORE TREATMENT
Many people with esophageal cancer have difficulty eating and may lose weight. While waiting for treatment, it is important to eat as well as possible, using dietary supplements if necessary. The increased calories will help you stop losing weight. This can also help you to better cope with the treatment.
If you have difficulty swallowing, you may have to eat food that has a different consistency. Having light meals regularly is better than three big meals a day. If you cannot swallow anything, you must get in touch with the hospital.
- TREATMENT OF EARLY-STAGE ESOPHAGEAL CANCER
If you have early-stage esophageal cancer that has not spread, you may be offered surgery to remove the cancer. In some cases, endoscopic mucosal resection may be performed.
If the cancer has started to spread (stage 2 or 3), you may be offered chemotherapy or chemo-radiotherapy followed by an operation. Sometimes, radiotherapy is given again after surgery. If you feel too unwell for chemotherapy, you may be given radiotherapy or surgery.
If it is difficult to eliminate the tumor by operating on it, you may have chemo-radiotherapy. This sometimes makes it possible to have surgery.
- TREATMENT OF LATE-STAGE ESOPHAGEAL CANCER
If you have advanced-stage esophageal cancer or do not feel well enough for certain treatments, you may be given chemotherapy or radiotherapy to help control the cancer and its symptoms.
Other treatments can help with difficulty swallowing if you have this:
- Placement of a stent (inserting a tube into the esophagus to keep it open)
- Dilation (widening the part of the esophagus that has been narrowed by the tumor)
- Laser treatment and photodynamic therapy (PDT)
- HOW IS THE TREATMENT PLANNED?
Your treatment will be planned by a group of specialists who will meet to discuss and agree upon the best possible treatment plan for you.
This multidisciplinary team will include:
- A surgeon (who specializes in your type of cancer)
- A medical oncologist
- A radiotherapy oncologist
- Radiologists who help analyze x-rays and scans.
- Pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.
Other health professionals may be included, such as a palliative care doctor (who is specialized in controlling symptoms), a nutritionist, a physical therapist, and occupational therapists, and a psychologist.
- BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF THE TREATMENT
You may feel afraid of cancer treatment due to the side effects it can have. Although treatments for esophageal cancer can produce adverse effects, you will be given help to control them.
The treatment can be given for various reasons and the possible benefits vary from person to person and from situation to situation. Your doctor can tell you whether the primary aim of the treatment is to cure the cancer, control it for some time, or reduce the symptoms and improve quality of life. They can also tell you about the possible side effects of the treatment and whether these are temporary or permanent.