Esophageal Cancer - Treatment

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What kinds of treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, did you receive for esophageal cancer?

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Treatment

People with esophageal cancer have several treatment options. The options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. For example, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery.

The treatment that's right for you depends mainly on the following:

  • where the cancer is located within the esophagus
  • whether the cancer has invaded nearby structures
  • whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs
  • your symptoms
  • your general health

Esophageal cancer is hard to control with current treatments. For that reason, many doctors encourage people with this disease to consider taking part in a clinical trial, a research study of new treatment methods. Clinical trials are an important option for people with all stages of esophageal cancer. See the Taking Part in Cancer Research section.

You may have a team of specialists to help plan your treatment. Your doctor may refer you to specialists, or you may ask for a referral. You may want to see a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in treating problems of the digestive organs. Other specialists who treat esophageal cancer include thoracic (chest) surgeons, some of whom are called thoracic surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Your health care team may also include an oncology nurse 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 see a speech pathologist.

Your health care team can describe your treatment choices, the expected results of each, and the possible side effects. Because cancer therapy often damages healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. You and your health care team can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before your treatment begins:

  • What is the stage of the disease? Has the cancer spread? Do any lymph nodes show signs of cancer?
  • What is the goal of treatment? What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Why?
  • Will I have more than one kind of treatment?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? For example, am I likely to have eating problems during or after treatment? How can side effects be managed?
  • What will the treatment cost? Will my insurance cover it?
  • Would a research study (clinical trial) be appropriate for me?
  • Can you recommend other doctors who could give me a second opinion about my treatment options?
  • How often should I have checkups?
Return to Esophageal Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Goblue, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: September 13

I have continuously been on chemo for one year due to stage 4 diagnosis. They have given me 3 different types as I had an allergic reaction to the first one after 6 months. The next one stopped working as I had trouble swallowing after being on it for 5 months. The doctor ordered radiation and chemo for 30 days. I am currently not on anything as PET showed cancer only in the tumor and it had shrunk significantly. I will see the doctor in 3 weeks and we'll see what that brings.

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Comment from: yellowroses, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: October 15

My husband was immediately put on daily radiation for 6 weeks targeting the tumor, and also two one-week treatments of chemotherapy, 3 weeks apart. He would get an 8 hour infusion on a Monday at cancer center and then wear a pump around his waist that would infuse 24 hours a day and wear it from Tuesday to Friday. He was able to work at his job if he felt well enough. A caution was to watch out for other peoples infections since his immune system was killed off while on treatment. He avoided large crowds and basically just kept around the house when not working. He is done with treatment and waiting for surgery.

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