This form of treatment involves the use of various types of radiation, or high-energy rays, to kill cancer cells in a specific area of the body.
Esophageal cancer refers to the growth of abnormal (malignant or cancerous) cells in the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that carries food from the mouth down to the stomach. It is also known as the “food pipe.”
Esophagus cancer is one of two types. The cells that make up these two types of cancer look different when they are examined under a microscope. The two types of esophageal cancer are:
Your healthcare providers will look to see if your esophageal cancer has spread to other areas of the body. This process is called “staging.”
In order to decide what type of surgical and non-surgical treatment is ideal for a specific esophageal cancer, your healthcare provider will need the following clinical information.
Radiation therapy involves the use of various forms of radiation, or high-energy x-ray beams, to kill cancer cells in a specific area of the body. Radiation therapy can be used:
Before surgery to make a tumor smaller
Radiation therapy can be given in various ways, depending on what type of cancer you have and where it is located in your body.
Some types of radiation therapy include:
Radiation can also be given internally by placing special radioactive source near a tumor (called brachytherapy), orally in the form of a pill or capsule that is swallowed or an infusion of a radioactive substance into a vein. The decision to administer radiation therapy will depend on the individual circumstances.
Esophageal cancer accounts for about 1% of cancers occurring in the U.S. The occurrence is greatest in men over the age of fifty. The risk factors for esophageal cancer depend on the specific type of cancer.
To decrease your risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, you should quit or avoid smoking and limit the amount of alcohol you drink - or not drink at all. If you have chronic reflux or have a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus, you may need to undergo periodic screenings for esophageal cancer. Screenings are often done with an upper endoscopy and biopsy and can lead to an early diagnosis and improved survival. The symptoms of esophageal cancer can include:
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms. He or she will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also recommend one of the following tests:
If you have specific symptoms or a large cancer, your healthcare provider may also recommend:
Treatments for cancer of the esophagus are either local (only affects the area of the cancer) or systemic (affects all areas of the body). Local treatments include:
Systemic treatments include:
Treatment for esophageal cancer may involve a combination of local and systemic treatments. You may also have more than one type of cancer treatment at a time.
To get a full range of opinions and perspectives, you may want to consider input from a variety of doctors. This includes:
It is important to remember that the total cost of this care path does not include all possible medications, lab work or imaging studies. Those charges can add up. If your healthcare provider recommends any lab work or imaging studies, you may need to search for their costs separately.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of esophageal cancer. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you've had them.
What should I ask my healthcare provider before having radiation therapy?
It is important you understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Don't forget to make arrangements for help at home.
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