Malignant Neoplasm of Esophagus

Malignant Neoplasm of Esophagus

What is esophageal cancer? — Esophageal cancer happens when normal cells in the esophagus change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The esophagus is the tube that moves food from the mouth to the stomach (figure 1).
What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer? — Early on, people might not notice any symptoms. They might find out they have esophageal cancer after a test for another condition.
When people have symptoms from esophageal cancer, they might have:
Trouble swallowing, especially solid, dry foods – This gets worse over time.
Weight loss
Pain or a burning feeling in the chest
A hoarse voice
All of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for esophageal cancer? — Yes. If your doctor suspects you have esophageal cancer, he or she will do 1 or more of the following tests:
Upper endoscopy – This is a procedure in which your doctor puts a thin tube with a camera and light on the end (called an endoscope) into your mouth and down into your esophagus (figure 2). He or she will look at the lining of your esophagus.
CT scan of the chest and upper belly – This test creates pictures of the inside of the body.
Biopsy – For this test, your doctor will take a small sample of tissue from your esophagus. Another doctor will look at the sample under a microscope to see if it has cancer. Your doctor will probably do a biopsy during an upper endoscopy. A biopsy is the only way to know for sure if you have esophageal cancer.
What is cancer staging? — Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out if a cancer has a spread past the layer of tissue where it began, and, if so, how far.
The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the stage of your cancer and your other medical problems.
How is esophageal cancer treated? — Most people with esophageal cancer have 1 or more of the following treatments:
Surgery – Esophageal cancer can be treated with surgery to remove the cancer. If your doctor needs to remove part of your esophagus during surgery, he or she will reconnect your esophagus and stomach so that you can swallow food.
Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
Immunotherapy – This is the term doctors use for medicines that work with the body's infection-fighting system (the "immune system") to stop cancer growth.
Esophageal cancer can sometimes be cured with treatment. This is most likely when the cancer is found at an early stage. If your cancer cannot be cured, your doctor might do other treatments to help improve your symptoms. These can include:
Using a laser beam or electric current to kill the cancer cells
Doing a procedure to widen or "prop open" the blocked part of your esophagus
What happens after treatment? — After treatment, you will be checked every so often to see if the cancer comes back. Regular follow-up tests usually include exams, blood tests, and imaging tests. Some people also have follow-up upper endoscopy.
You should also watch for the symptoms listed above. Having those symptoms could mean the cancer has come back. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms.
What happens if the cancer comes back or spreads? — If the cancer comes back or spreads, you might have more radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. You might also have other treatments to help improve your symptoms.
What else should I do? — It is important to follow all your doctor's instructions about visits and tests. It's also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for esophageal cancer involves making many choices, such as what treatment to have.
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:
What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
What are the downsides to this treatment?
Are there other options besides this treatment?
What happens if I do not have this treatment?
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 16832 Version 8.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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