When cancer occurs in the esophagus it is known as esophageal cancer, which is a type of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. The esophagus is a hollow, muscular tube that connects from the back of the throat to the stomach. It is located behind the trachea (windpipe) and in front of the spine. The esophagus helps move the food you swallow from the back of the throat to the stomach for digestion.
These two esophageal cancer types tend to develop in different parts of the esophagus and develop due to different genetic changes.
Esophageal cancer in earlier stages typically causes no signs or symptoms. When signs and symptoms are present they often include:
When esophageal cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. However, esophageal cancer is often diagnosed when it is in an advanced stage because of a lack of symptoms early on.
After an esophageal cancer diagnosis has been made, your doctor will try to determine if the cancer has spread, and if so, how far, through a process called staging. The stage of cancer determines how severe the cancer is, as well as, the best approach for treatment.
The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number means a more serious cancer that has spread from where it originally started.
Every cancer diagnosis is unique; that is why different treatment types are available for esophageal cancer patients. Some treatments are standard and commonly used, while others are being tested in clinical trials. An oncologist decides the best approach to each patient’s treatment plan based on the stage and location of the cancer. Treatment for esophageal cancer will likely include one of the following or more:
Clinical research is underway for additional categories of drugs including targeted therapy.
Esophageal cancer can potentially make it difficult for patients to eat due to trouble with swallowing. The esophagus may become partially blocked by the tumor or as a side effect of treatment. A dietitian can help patients going through treatment for esophageal cancer understand how to get the nutrition they need to stay strong during treatment.
It is a possibility for some patients to receive a feeding tube (a flexible plastic tube that is passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach) until they can eat on their own. This is discussed with the oncologist and dietitian to determine if this is needed and for how long.
When you’re ready, click the button to make an appointment with one of our GI cancer specialists. The WVCI team is conveniently located in Corvallis, Eugene, Florence, and Lincoln City, ready to talk to you about your esophageal cancer and all your personalized treatment options. It’s important for you to get good information and choose the treatment that’s best for you. We’re here to answer your questions and help you every step of the way.