Esophagus Cancer Overview

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Treating Esophagus Cancer TOPICS

How is cancer of the esophagus treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

About treatment

After the cancer is found and staged, your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options. There is a lot for you to think about when choosing the best way to treat or manage your cancer. You will want to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option.

The main options for treating cancer of the esophagus include:

Other treatments may also be used for early cancers and pre-cancers of the esophagus. Some of these can also be used to help relieve symptoms such as pain and blockage.

Depending on the stage of the cancer and your general health, different treatments might be used alone or combined. Based on your treatment options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors might include:

  • A thoracic surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases of the chest with surgery
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy
  • A gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in treatment of diseases of the digestive system

Many other specialists might be involved in your care as well. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of your treatment options, including side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. You may feel that you need to make a decision quickly, but give yourself time to absorb what you have learned. Ask your cancer care team questions, such as those in the section, “Questions to ask your doctor about cancer of the esophagus.”

If time allows, it’s often a good idea to get a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel confident about the treatment plan you choose.

Last Medical Review: 05/21/2014
Last Revised: 01/09/2015