Treatment for early cancer of the oesophagus - Cancer Research UK



Treating Esophageal Cancer With Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can be one of the most effective methods of esophageal cancer treatment.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH

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The word chemotherapy conjures up many unpleasant images: hair loss, feeling weak, and extra trips to the toilet due to stomach upset and nausea, to name a few. But despite the side effects — many of which can be managed with medications and other therapies — chemotherapy is a very effective way to treat and alleviate symptoms of esophageal cancer.

Chemotherapy and Esophageal Cancer

Chemotherapy is a regimen of anti-cancer medications that may be given orally (in pill form), or intravenously by a catheter placed in your vein. Chemotherapy is typically administered a few times a week for several weeks at a time.

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can all be used to treat esophageal cancer — which treatments you receive will depend on several factors, including your overall health, the stage of the disease, and the goal of your therapy.

Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with surgery and radiation therapy to treat esophageal cancer. It may be given before surgery to help decrease the size of the tumor, or after surgery to help rid the body of any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also be used alone to help relieve pain and difficulty swallowing in an esophageal cancer patient whose tumor cannot be removed by surgery. It is very effective in reducing discomfort caused by the tumor, which in turn makes swallowing easier.

Patients who are not healthy enough to undergo surgery or who have advanced esophageal cancer are often the best candidates for chemotherapy, usually in combination with radiation therapy.

"If the patient is incapable of surgery, they get chemotherapy and radiation. The [people] who go to chemotherapy and radiation are usually at a more advanced stage," says Wayne Hofstetter, MD, associate professor of thoracic surgery and director of the esophageal program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

"If their disease is very advanced, they may get chemotherapy alone followed by chemotherapy and radiation," says Dr. Hofstetter. "For local regional disease, multi-modality therapy is always considered," notes Hofstetter, or in other words, when cancer has spread outside the esophagus to surrounding tissues it is often best treated with multiple types of therapy simultaneously — including chemotherapy.

Understanding the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy does have a number of possible side effects, although you may not experience all of them. They can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Mouth sores

Fortunately, these symptoms are temporary — they typically go away after the treatments have ended. While you are going through therapy, talk to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing since these symptoms can often be managed. Your doctor can work with you to help you get as comfortable as possible during your treatment, so don't be afraid to ask about what can be done to help you feel better.

And remember, in spite of the side effects, chemotherapy remains an important part of esophageal cancer treatment since it helps reduce symptoms and can effectively destroy cancer cells. The side effects may be unpleasant, but they are temporary and the benefits can be long-lasting as you battle esophageal cancer.






Video: Stages of Esophageal Cancer and Treatments

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Date: 09.12.2018, 00:24 / Views: 53435