There is no one specific kind of treatment that is used for all patients with esophageal cancer. Each patient’s ideal course of treatment depends on a number of factors, including his or her overall health and the stage of their cancer as well as their personal preferences.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we make it simple for our patients to receive the treatments they require, as we offer a wide range of esophageal cancer treatments in a single location. We also have a skilled, multispecialty team comprising surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists and other experts whose sole focus is the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies. Together, these experts use their extensive expertise to create an individualized treatment plan for each patient, providing the best chance at achieving a favorable outcome and improved quality of life.
While surgery is most often used as the main form of treatment for esophageal cancer that has not yet reached advanced stages, other nonsurgical approaches may also be utilized, often in combination with surgery or in cases where surgery is not an option. The most common nonsurgical treatment options for esophageal cancer are:
Chemotherapy involves taking powerful drugs, either orally or intravenously, to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is commonly used in combination with surgery. The drugs may be administered before surgery to shrink a tumor before it is removed, or after surgery to destroy cancer cells that remain in the body.
Chemotherapy may also be used as a treatment for patients with esophageal cancer that has spread beyond the esophagus, for which surgery is not an option. In these cases, the goal of chemotherapy is to relieve the symptoms caused by the cancer.
There are several kinds of chemotherapy drugs used for patients with esophageal cancer. In some instances, a combination of drugs is used. Chemotherapy is administered in cycles, with a period of treatment followed by a period of rest to allow the body to recover from the treatment’s side effects. The length and number of treatments, as well as the specific kind and dosage of medications used, will vary from patient to patient.
Radiation therapy is another commonly used treatment for esophageal cancer. With this treatment, high-energy beams are used to destroy cancer cells. There are two main forms of radiation therapy – external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy. With external beam radiation therapy, a machine outside the body delivers radiation to a tumor. Brachytherapy involves placing small radioactive particles directly into the body near a cancer site. Moffitt’s radiation oncology services for esophageal cancer include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), brachytherapy, image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), as well as other options.
Most often, radiation therapy is used before surgery in combination with chemotherapy to help maximize the effectiveness of both treatments. Radiation therapy may also be used to address certain complications that can arise as a result of esophageal cancer, such as when a tumor causes difficulty swallowing.
Esophageal cancer surgery
Surgery is the most common treatment for esophageal cancer. To determine if surgery is the best treatment for a patient, his or her team will consider the size, location, stage and type of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. There are several procedures that may be used to treat esophageal cancer, including:
- Endoscopic mucosal resection – When the cancer is confined to the lining of the esophagus, this procedure can be done to remove the cancer and a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue.
- Esophagectomy – The cancerous portion of the esophagus is removed along with the upper portion of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes. The remaining parts of the esophagus and stomach are then connected.
- Esophagogastrectomy – Parts of the esophagus and stomach are removed, along with some nearby lymph nodes. The esophagus is then attached to the remaining part of the stomach. If necessary, the colon may be used to help connect the two organs.
At Moffitt, our skilled surgeons are highly experienced in performing all kinds of surgery for esophageal cancer. Thanks to this expertise, we are able to offer our patients more advanced surgical treatment options, including minimally invasive or laparoscopic esophageal resections, colonic interpositions, robotic-assisted esophageal resections and laparoscopic feeding tube placement.
Moffitt Cancer Center is committed to advancing the research and treatment of esophageal cancer. We spearhead a robust clinical trials program where our patients have opportunities to benefit from groundbreaking new therapies before those options are available elsewhere. We are constantly testing new therapies to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients with esophageal cancer and we will not be satisfied until there is a cure. Moffitt is a recognized leader in cancer research and we have been named a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute – the only one based in Florida.
Why choose Moffitt
Patients who have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and would like to explore their treatment options are welcome to come to Moffitt. The experts in our Gastrointestinal Oncology Program collaborate to ensure each patient receives the treatments that will best address the unique challenges of his or her cancer. In many cases, our patients receive two or more treatments in an approach known as multimodal therapy. Additional options, such as laser therapy, electrocoagulation and immunotherapy may also be recommended. At Moffitt, we believe that cancer treatment extends far beyond the treatments a patient receives for his or her malignancy. That’s why we also have a full team of supportive care specialists in a single location. From dietitians to social workers to counselors, these professionals help ensure all of our patients’ physical and emotional needs are being met as they navigate the challenges of undergoing cancer treatment.
No referrals are necessary to meet with Moffitt’s oncologists. To request an appointment with our esophageal cancer treatment team, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online.