Upper endoscopy (EGD) will be used to obtain a tissue sample from the esophagus to diagnose cancer.
When the cancer is only in the esophagus and has not spread, surgery will be done. The cancer and part, or all, of the esophagus is removed. The surgery may be done using:
- Open surgery, during which one or two larger incisions are made.
- Minimally invasive surgery, during which a 2 - 4 small incisions are made in the belly. A laparoscope with a tiny camera is inserted into the belly through one of the incisions.
Radiation therapy may also be used instead of surgery in some cases when the cancer has not spread outside the esophagus.
Either chemotherapy, radiation, or both may be used to shrink the tumor and make surgery easier to perform.
If the patient is too ill to have major surgery or the cancer has spread to other organs, chemotherapy or radiation may be used to help reduce symptoms. This is called palliative therapy. In such cases, the disease is usually not curable.
Beside a change in diet, other treatments that may be used to help the patient swallow include:
- Dilating (widening) the esophagus using an endoscope. Sometimes a stent is placed to keep the esophagus open.
- A feeding tube into the stomach.
- Photodynamic therapy, in which a special drug is injected into the tumor and is then exposed to light. The light activates the medicine that attacks the tumor.