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Treatments for Esophageal Cancer

While standard protocols have been established for the treatment of virtually all cancers, doctors will often modify them for their individual patients. These modifications are based on many factors including the patient’s age, general health, desired results, and the specific characteristics of his or her cancer. Since the treatments described in this report represent the standard therapeutic approaches, your physician may not strictly adhere to them.

Most esophageal cancer is discovered too late to be cured. Overall, 20% of patients survive beyond five years after diagnosis. Treatment is often directed at increasing the person’s comfort and prolonging life.

For this disease, few possible treatments come highly recommended. Most of them are grueling, painful, and marginally productive in terms of improved quality of life or extended survival. Before submitting yourself to a proposed treatment, talk with your doctor. Compare the possible benefits with the severity and risk of side effects. If at all possible, talk with patients who have undergone what you are considering.

Psychotherapy plays an important role in the care of patients with esophageal cancer. Researchers randomly divided 271 surgical patients with cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract ( esophagus , stomach , liver , pancreas , colon , or rectum) into two groups: one received usual care on the surgical ward and the other received formal psychological support in addition to usual care. Psychological interventions, which were provided both before and after surgery, consisted of emotional and cognitive support and help in planning for the future. Ten years after their surgery, patients who received psychological support were significantly more likely to be alive than those who did not receive such additional care.

Click the links below to learn more about the treatment options.

Existing treatment protocols have been established and continue to be modified through clinical trials. These research studies are essential to determine whether or not new treatments are both safe and effective. Since highly effective treatments for many cancers remain unknown, numerous clinical trials are always underway around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should consider participating in a clinical trial. You can find out about clinical trials at the government website ClinicalTrials.gov .

Revision Information

  • Esophageal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated June 2, 2013. Accessed August 2, 2013.

  • Esophageal cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/esophageal/HealthProfessional . Updated February 15, 2013. Accessed August 2, 2013.

  • Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003098-pdf.pdf . Accessed August 2, 2013.

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