Esophageal Cancer (cont.)


People with cancer of the esophagus have many treatment options. Treatment options include...

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

The treatment that's right for you depends mainly on the type and stage of esophageal cancer. You'll probably receive more than one type of treatment. For example, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery.

At any stage of esophageal cancer, care is available to manage health problems caused by the disease or side effects from its treatment. You can get information about coping with symptoms and side effects on NCI's website at

Also, you can get information about coping from NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Or, chat using NCI's instant messaging service, LiveHelp (

Doctors Who Treat Esophageal Cancer

Your health care team may include the following specialists:

  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in treating problems of the esophagus and other digestive organs.
  • Chest surgeon: A chest surgeon (thoracic surgeon) specializes in surgery on the esophagus and other organs inside the chest. You may wish to find an expert in esophageal cancer surgery.
  • Thoracic surgical oncologist: A thoracic surgical oncologist is a surgeon who specializes in surgeries on tumors found inside the chest.
  • Medical oncologist: A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with drugs, such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
  • Radiation oncologist: A radiation oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy.

You may want to find doctors who have a lot of experience with treating esophageal cancer.

Resources are available to help you find doctors who treat this disease:

  • Your doctor may be able to refer you to specialists.
  • You can ask a hospital, medical school, or medical society for names of specialists near you.
  • NCI's Cancer Information Service can give you information about treatment centers near you. Call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Or, chat using LiveHelp (, NCI's instant messaging service.

Your health care team may also include an oncology nurse, a social worker, and a registered dietitian. If your airways are affected by the cancer, you may have a respiratory therapist as part of your team. If you have trouble swallowing, you may have a speech pathologist.

For help relieving or reducing pain, you may work with a specially trained doctor, a nurse, a palliative care team, or another pain control specialist.

Your health care team can describe your treatment options, the expected results of each option, and the possible side effects. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. These side effects depend on many factors, including the type of treatment. Side effects may not be the same for everyone, and they may even change from one treatment session to the next.

Cancer of the esophagus is hard to control with current treatments. For that reason, many doctors encourage people with this disease to consider taking part in a research study (clinical trial) of new treatment methods. Research studies are an important option for people with any stage of esophageal cancer.

Questions you may want to ask your doctor about treatment options

  • What are my treatment options? Which do you recommend for me? Why?
  • What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? How can side effects be managed?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover it?
  • How will treatment affect my normal activities?
  • Would a treatment research study be right for me?

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs Question: What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Prognosis and Stage Question: What is your esophageal cancer prognosis? What stage is your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Types Question: Do you or someone you know have adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus? Please share your story.
Esophageal Cancer - Risk Factors Question: Do you have any of the risk factors for esophageal cancer? What are they, and what are your concerns?
Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis Question: What kinds of tests and exams led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, did you receive for esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Surgery Question: Please describe the surgical experience you or someone you know had for esophageal cancer.
Esophageal Cancer - Second Opinion Question: How did you go about getting a second opinion for your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Follow-Up Care Question: What type of follow-up care did you receive for your esophageal cancer?