Treatment for Esophageal Cancer
Our gastroenterologists offer various treatment options for esophageal cancer at Digestive Health Centers in Dallas, TX. When you begin to notice difficulty swallowing, frequent choking while eating or ongoing heartburn, it is important to schedule an appointment with a GI doctor at Digestive Health like Dr. Noel Snowberger who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of GI diseases like esophageal cancer. You can make an appointment with Dr. Snowberger at our Dallas office located at 9500 N. Central Expy, or find a location more convenient to your home in the DFW area to meet with a gastroenterologist.
If the tumor is very small, our gastroenterologists may perform surgery to remove it. In more advanced cases, an esophagectomy or esophagogastrectomy may be necessary. These surgeries involve removing a portion or all of the esophagus, as well as a portion of the stomach. These procedures can help alleviate symptoms and allow for easier eating by relieving esophageal obstruction.
In addition to surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also be used as part of the treatment plan. These treatments may be administered either before or after surgery to help relieve the signs, symptoms, and complications associated with esophageal cancer. They can be effective in reducing the size of tumors, managing pain, and improving overall quality of life for patients.
What is Esophageal Cancer?
Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus, the long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus carries food you swallow to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer begins in the cells that line the esophagus and can occur anywhere in the esophagus. In the United States, it occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. The Esophageal Cancer Action Network can offer more information about esophageal cancer and ways to promote awareness.
While this disease is rare, esophageal cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. In the localized stage, meaning it is only growing in the esophagus, this cancer has only a 38 percent five-year survival rate. Once in the regional stage, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or tissues. This stage has only a 20 percent survival rate. The distant stage, when the cancer has spread to other organs, has a 3 percent survival rate.
Cause of Esophageal Cancer
Currently, the cause of esophageal cancer is unknown. It occurs when the cells in your esophagus develop mutations, or errors, in their DNA. These errors make cells grow and divide out of control. So, the accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor in the esophagus that can grow and invade nearby structures, spreading to other parts of the body.
Furthermore, Esophageal cancer is classified according to the type of cells that are involved. So, the type of esophageal cancer you have helps determine your treatment options.
Types of Esophageal Cancer
This begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. This type of esophageal cancer occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. Therefore, adenocarcinoma is the most common form of esophageal cancer in the U.S., and it affects primarily white men.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. It occurs most often in the middle of the esophagus and is the most prevalent esophageal cancer worldwide.
Other Rare Forms of Esophageal Cancer
- Small cell cancer.
Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Weight loss without trying
- Chest pain, pressure or burning
- Frequent choking while eating
- Indigestion or heartburn
- As well as, coughing or hoarseness
In contrast, early esophageal cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms
Given these points, certain factors can cause chronic irritation to your esophagus. Chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer.
Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer
- Drinking alcohol
- Having bile reflux
- Chewing tobacco
- Having difficulty swallowing because of an esophageal sphincter that won’t relax (achalasia)
- Drinking very hot liquids
- Eating few fruits and vegetables
- Eating foods preserved in lye, such as lutefisk, a Nordic recipe made from whitefish and some olive recipes
- Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Being obese
- As well as, having Barrett’s esophagus
- Undergoing radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
Other risk factors include being male and being between the ages of 45 and 70. Men are three to four times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than women.
Four Stages of Esophageal Cancer
- Only in the top layer of cells lining your esophagus
- When the cancer has invaded deeper layers of your esophagus lining and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes
- Cancer has spread to the deepest layers of the wall of your esophagus and to nearby tissue or lymph nodes
- When the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
Tests to Diagnose Esophageal Cancer
- Upper endoscopy
- Barium esophagram
- Biopsy- passing an endoscope down your throat into your esophagus to collect a tissue sample to look for cancer cells
Complications of Esophageal Cancer
- Obstruction of the esophagus making it difficult or impossible for food and liquid to pass through your esophagus
- Cancer pain
- Bleeding in the esophagus
- Severe weight loss
How to Prevent Esophageal Cancer
- Quit smoking or chewing tobacco
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- As well as, maintaining a healthy weight