Learning that you or a loved one have esophageal cancer can be a frightening idea to come to terms with. There are many several reasons that the cancer can appear though no sure-fire ways to prevent it. While the esophageal variety occurs more commonly in those that drink heavily, smoke, have a small intake of fruits and vegetables or are overweight, it can show up in any patient.
While the cancer does not have a cure, there are certain methods that your doctors can use to treat the disease, and lifestyle changes that can prevent it from coming back.
- Endoscopy (EGD). An endoscopy can be a suitable diagnostic method for those that have not started to show the signs of cancer or are in the very early stages. Patients with chronic reflux are high risks. An endoscopy is performed when a doctor inserts a long flexible tube down the throat and down esophagus. It is used to view the inside of the throat and to see if there are any signs of cancer before the symptoms start to show.
If there are signs of cancer, or potentially threatening cells, then an Endoscopic Mucosal resection is needed. This procedure is implemented to remove the suspicious cells from the throat to prevent them from spreading.
- Photodynamic Therapy. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is another method that can be used to treat the initial stages of cancer in the esophagus. PDT also uses the endoscopy to detect and eventually remove cancerous cells. The first step of the process however is injecting Porfimer Sodium into the body. The drug is attracted to the cancerous cells in the body and is activated by light. Once the activation occurs the drug will destroy the cancerous cells, these dead cells are then removed by an endoscopy later. This procedure is great at removing the cells on the lining of the throat, as they can be exposed to the light, If the cancer has spread too deep- the treatment is not as effective.
- Surgery (Esophagectomy). If the cancer that is present in the patient is still in the initial stages and hasn’t spread too far in the lining of the throat- surgery could be a way to remove the cancerous cells. The procedure is an esophagectomy, and it involves removing part of the throat to rid the body of the cancerous cells. This method of treatment can also be used to remove lymph nodes that have been overtaken by cancerous cells. It is most often performed in patients that, besides the cancer, are healthy. It can also be combined with radiation or chemo.
- Chemoradiation is one of the main treatments when it comes to Esophageal cancer. It can be used to rid the body of the cancerous cells- or to target specific areas and reduce the size of the area effected. Once the size of the affected area is reduced- surgery can be implemented in treating the cells.
The radiation therapy can also be used after surgery to kill any areas of disease that were remaining in the body. In some cases, if the surgery did not work- it does become the main treatment method and can help to reduce the severity or the symptoms that Esophageal cancer causes. When chemoradiation is used to relive the patient, it is called Palliative Therapy.
- Healthy Lifestyle. While living a healthy lifestyle cannot completely prevent or treat cancer- it can help the body to recover during and after treatments. It is recommended that is the patients previously smoked or consumed substantial amounts of alcohol- they try to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Not only to reduce the risk of the cancer returning, but to be at optimum health if it does and treatment is needed again.
While dealing with esophageal cancer is never easy, there are treatments and excellent doctors that are there to help those effected by the disease. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed and are looking for advice and treatment options, contact the Digestive and Liver Disease Center of San Antonio. We have set the standard for quality and personalized care in the San Antonio area and want to help create a treatment plan that is best for you.