4. Complications of Esophageal Cancer
Damage to the lining of the esophagus can cause complications such as pain and bleeding. Excessive esophageal bleeding can lead to conditions such as anemia. Furthermore, as the cancer cells damage the esophagus, the passageway can narrow. This causes difficulty in swallowing food or water, resulting in weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. If holes develop in the esophagus, food or liquids can leak into the lungs. As fluid enters the lungs, this can cause breathing issues and increase the risk of pneumonia. Additionally, as with many cancers, there is the risk of esophageal cancer metastasizing, or spreading to other parts of the body.
3. Local Treatment for Esophageal Cancer
If found early, esophageal cancer may be contained to just the esophagus. In this case, your physician may work with you to choose a treatment that specifically targets the cancerous areas of the esophagus. Surgical options include open esophagectomy and minimally invasive esophagectomy. Esophagectomy involves removing the affected portion of the esophagus. An open esophagectomy involves one large surgical incision. Meanwhile, the minimally invasive technique involves using several small cuts and a scope. Your physician may recommend radiation in place of or in addition to surgery.
2. Systemic Treatment for Esophageal Cancer
If the cancer has spread, your doctor may recommend systemic treatment for the cancer. Systemic treatment targets a larger area of the body. Chemotherapy is one treatment option that may be used along with surgery and radiation to treat aggressive forms of esophageal cancer. Newer anti-cancer drugs, called targeted therapies, may be beneficial in fighting esophageal cancer. These treatments target specific changes noted in cancer cells. Furthermore, immunotherapies may be useful for helping the body’s own immune system to kill off cancer cells.