Just as each person is unique, each case of esophageal cancer is unique and a variety of treatment options may be available depending on the type of cancer, its staging, and your overall health. At the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health, our multidisciplinary team of expert surgical, medical and radiation oncologists evaluate each case to determine the best possible outcome for our patients. We tailor the treatment to each patient in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
Possible treatments include:
The goal of surgery for esophageal cancer is to completely remove the cancer. In very early stage cancers this can be done with limited resections, yet in more advanced cancer complete removal of the esophagus is necessary, and may require chemotherapy and radiation therapy prior to surgery. Patients with esophageal cancer may be candidates for minimally invasive surgical approaches such as:
Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) - Can be used to remove a small focal cancer that is confined to the most superficial part of the esophageal lining. This is done using an endoscope.
Minimally Invasive Esophagogastrectomy (MIE) - This technique is performed either laparoscopic/thoracoscopic or using the da Vinci Surgical System to remove part of the esophagus and then reconstruct it using the stomach, small bowel, or colon. Our surgeons perform this procedure with a record low rate of complications and mortality – even lower than the national average.
Radiation therapy is a key part of treating esophageal cancer. This involves using high-powered energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. Patients who are not candidates for surgery can undergo radiation therapy instead, and it is used in a select group of patients prior to surgery. The most common form of radiation therapy is known as external beam radiation. This involves using a machine that directs energy beams at the part of your body affected by cancer. Radiation therapy causes side effects such as fatigue and a temporary rash at the site of treatment. Radiation is often given in combination with chemotherapy which improves the cancer killing effect.
Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Most patients are apprehensive to consider chemotherapy, but each patient’s experience is different and depends on the type of chemotherapy recommended. Most patients maintain a good quality of life during treatment and side effect control has improved significantly. Chemotherapy may be given alone, or in combination with other treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, and an increased risk of infection. In some cancers, certain genetic mutations can be detected, and if these are found, then cancer cells can be targeted with chemotherapy that has less side effects.