Esophageal Cancer Treatment

An Overview of Esophageal Cancer

Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cellular growth; in the case of esophageal cancers, the abnormal growth appear in the tissue of the esophagus. Patients in Alaska seeking esophageal treatment can turn to the caring providers at the Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center for advanced solutions. We help patients learn more about the treatment options best suited for their particular diagnosis and provide support through each stage of the treatment process and follow up care.

Understanding Cancer Basics

The cells in the human body go through a natural process of division, growth, and eventual death; old and damaged cells are cleared away and replaced by fresh ones. This process allows the body to keep itself healthy and strong. If a cell’s natural cycle is disrupted then old cells never die and continue to accumulate. The prolific cells collect in a mass called a tumor.

When cancerous tumors gain access to the body’s blood circulation or lymphatic system, cancerous cells may travel to other parts of the body and begin to replicate. When this happens, the cancer is said to have metastasized. Treating cancer before it spreads increases the likelihood of preventing recurrence.

Seeking Treatment

Esophageal cancer typically develops over several months. Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite, also known as anorexia

Esophageal Cancer Stages

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) developed a special staging system to describe all cancers, including esophageal cancer, called the TNM system. The TNM staging system is based on three areas of information:

  •    T – The first category is based on the size of the primary tumor and its growth
  •    N – The second category is based on whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  •    M – The third category indicates whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body (metastasized)

Evidence-based treatment is based on the stage of esophageal cancer.

Detecting and Treating Esophageal Cancer

If esophageal cancer is suspected, an upper endoscopy is performed by a gastroenterologist or surgical oncologist. Abnormal areas are biopsied and tissue sent to a pathologist for examination. If the diagnosis of cancer is established, additional studies to stage the cancer are typically  ordered. These studies include:

  •    CT scan
  •    PET/CT scan
  •    MRI scan
  •    Transesophageal ultrasound

Treating Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer treatment typically involves surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In many cases, radiation therapy with chemotherapy are administered prior to surgery. Your team of cancer physicians will collaborate and recommend the most effective, evidence-based treatment program to yield the best outcomes based on your individual situation.

Esophageal cancer is when an abnormal growth of malignant cells occurs in the esophagus.

Esophageal cancer is most common in patients 50 or older. Risk factors for developing esophageal cancer include tobacco abuse, alcohol abuse, and Barrett’s esophagus.

Risk factors for developing esophageal cancer include:

  • Tobacco abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Barrett’s esophagus


Esophageal cancer is typically diagnosed through upper endoscopy and biopsies of areas suspicious for cancer in the esophagus. The procedure is typically performed by a gastroenterologist or surgical oncologist.

Treatment depends on the extent, or stage, of cancer. Treatments can include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Call Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center For More Information

For more information, call us at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center (907-707-1333).

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