What is  Esophageal Cancer Treatment?

October 20, 2021 Cancer Hub 26 Views

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What is the meaning of Esophageal Cancer?

When the abnormal cells in the esophageal tissue grow out of control it results in a condition known as esophageal cancer. The abnormal cells eventually form a mass known as a tumor.

The esophagus is a muscular, thin tube running from the throat region to the stomach.

An esophageal sphincter is a special type of muscle that acts as a valve. It allows the liquid and food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach.

In this article, we will be talking in detail about esophageal cancer and its treatment- 

  • What are the types of Esophageal Cancer?
  • What are the causes of Esophageal Cancer?
  • What are the risk factors of Esophageal Cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?
  • How to diagnose Esophageal Cancer?
  • What is the treatment for Esophageal Cancer?
  • What are the complications of Esophageal Cancer Treatments?
  • How to prevent Esophageal Cancer?
  • What is the cost of Esophageal Cancer treatment in India?

What are the types of Esophageal Cancer?

There are two main types of esophageal cancers, namely:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer begins in the cells (known as squamous cells) lining the esophagus. This type of cancer usually occurs in the upper and middle parts of the esophagus.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer develops in the glandular cells of the esophagus, which are responsible for the formation of fluids like mucus. Adenocarcinoma is most commonly seen in the lower part of the esophagus.

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What are the causes of Esophageal Cancer?

  • The exact cause of esophageal cancer is unknown.
  • It is believed to occur due to the changes (mutations) in the DNA of the cells related to the esophagus.
  • These changes cause the rapid multiplication of these abnormal cells as compared to the normal cells, and leads to the formation of tumors.

What are the risk factors of Esophageal Cancer?

A few factors increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer. These factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Not eating enough vegetables and fruits
  • More common in men
  • Age above 45 years
  • More commonly seen in Americans, Africans, and Asians
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • History of cancer of the head or the neck
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease / GERD (heartburn which occurs when the stomach contents go back up into the esophagus)
  • Chronic (long-term) acid reflux which is left untreated leading to the formation of Barrett’s esophagus

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  • Human papillomavirus / HPV (a common virus which causes tissue changes in the mouth, vocal cords, hands, feet, and the reproductive organs)
  • Achalasia (an uncommon disease that causes difficulty in swallowing food)
  • Tylosis (a rare, genetic disorder in which excess skin grows in the soles of the feet and palms of the hand)

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What are the symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?

The various symptoms associated with esophageal cancer include:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Pain in the back, throat, behind the breastbone, or between the shoulder blades
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss

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How to diagnose Esophageal Cancer?

Physical examination: 

  • The doctor will first examine the patient physically.
  •  The symptoms of the patient are noted.
  •  The medical and family history of the patient is also noted by the doctor.

Barium swallow: 

  • A patient is first made to drink a liquid containing barium. 
  • This makes it easy to see the esophagus on the x-ray.

Esophagoscopy: 

  • The doctor looks inside the esophagus using a thin tube with a light on one end, known as an endoscope. 
  • The endoscope is passed through the mouth, down the throat into the esophagus. 
  • Endoscopy can also be done for relieving an obstruction. The doctor inserts a balloon for the dilation of an esophagus, which is obstructed. 
  • Viewing the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach is known as an upper endoscopy.

Esophageal endoscopic ultrasound:

  • It is a procedure in which sound waves are used for creating images of the internal structures.
  • The ultrasound is done using an esophagoscope.

Computed tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan:

  • These are imaging tests done to view the internal organs of the body.
  • They are used to evaluate the extent of the spread of the tumor to the abdomen (stomach) and the chest.

Biopsy:

  • This procedure involves the removal of a small part of the tissue growth.
  • This sample is then sent to the laboratory to check for the presence of cancer cells.

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What is the treatment for Esophageal Cancer?

The type of treatment depends on the stage of cancer, the type of cells involved, and the overall health of the patient.

The various modes of treatment for esophageal cancer include:

  • Surgery:
    • Surgery can either be used alone or in combination with other treatments to remove the cancer cells.
    • If the tumor is very small, the surgeon recommends the surgical removal of the tumor, along with the healthy tissue margin surrounding it.
    • Esophagectomy is a surgical procedure in which a portion of the esophagus containing cancer, along with an upper part of the stomach, and the surrounding lymph nodes are removed.
    • Esophagogastrectomy is a surgical procedure done to remove a part of the esophagus, the nearby lymph nodes, and a large part of the stomach. The remaining part of the stomach is then pulled up and reattached to the esophagus. A part of the colon (large intestine) is sometimes used to join the two.
    • Surgery can be done by making large incisions (cuts) or by special surgical tools inserted through many small incisions in the skin using a laparoscope (a thin lighted instrument).

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  • Chemotherapy:
    • It is a drug treatment that kills cancer cells.
    • Chemotherapy drugs are sometimes used before surgery to shrink the tumor and make it easy for removal.
    • Chemotherapy drugs can be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that may be remaining even after surgery.
    • In advanced cases of esophageal cancer, chemotherapy alone can be used to relieve the symptoms caused due to cancer.

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  • Radiation therapy:
    • High-energy beams such as protons and x-rays are used to kill the cancer cells in radiation therapy.
    • Radiation is usually provided from a machine outside the body that aims the radiation beams at the cancer site (external beam radiation).
    • Sometimes, radiation can be placed inside the body near cancer (brachytherapy).
    • Radiation therapy can be used in combination with chemotherapy.
    • It can be used before or after surgery.
    • Radiation therapy helps in relieving the symptoms in advanced cases of esophageal cancer, like a large tumor that may stop the food from passing to the stomach.
  • Targeted drug therapy:
    • This type of drug therapy focuses on specific weaknesses that may be present within the cancer cells.
    • The drugs block this weakness, leading to the death of the cancer cells.
    • Targeted drugs are usually combined with chemotherapy drugs in advanced cases of esophageal cancer, or cancers that do not respond to other forms of treatment.
  • Immunotherapy:
    • A drug treatment that helps the body’s immune system (disease-fighting system) to fight against cancer cells.
    • It is used in advanced cases of esophageal cancer, recurrent cancer, or cancer that has spread to the other parts of the body.

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What are the complications of Esophageal Cancer Treatments?

Esophageal cancer can lead to the following complications:

  • Pain
  • Obstruction of the esophagus, making it difficult for the liquid and food to pass through
  • Bleeding in the esophagus

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How to prevent Esophageal Cancer?

The following steps can be taken to prevent the risk of developing esophageal cancer:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight

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What is the cost of Esophageal Cancer treatment in India?

The total cost of esophageal cancer treatment in India can range from around INR 2,50,000 to INR 4,00,000. However, the cost of the procedure may vary across different hospitals. There are many big hospitals and specialized doctors in India for esophageal cancer treatment. The cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, in addition to the expenses of esophageal cancer treatment, there will be a cost of staying in a hotel, cost of living, and cost of local travel. Apart from this, after the procedure, the patient is kept in hospital for 5 days and in the hotel for 15 days for recovery. So, the total cost of esophageal cancer treatment in India comes to be around INR 4,00,000 to INR 6,00,000. 

We hope that all your questions regarding esophageal cancer treatment have been answered through this article.

If you want to get more information and treatment of esophageal cancer, then immediately contact a Surgical Oncologist.

We only aim to give you information through this article and do not recommend medication or treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan. 


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