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Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment & Recovery

The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) is home to an experienced and well trained esophageal cancer care team that will help educate and guide you or a loved one through the workup, diagnosis, staging and treatment of an esophageal cancer.

Learn about the Types, Causes & Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment 

Esophageal cancer is most often diagnosed with a combination of minimally invasive procedures and imaging tests such as an EGD, CT scan and PET scan. An EGD is also known as an upper endoscopy and consists of the physician passing a small scope through the mouth and down the esophagus to visualize the inside of the esophagus. During this procedure, if a mass is seen, then a biopsy can be obtained. The CT and PET scans help the doctors to understand if the cancer has potentially spread anywhere outside of the esophagus or the surrounding lymph nodes. Sometimes during the endoscopy, a special scope with an ultrasound probe is used to help determine how far into the wall of the esophagus the tumor has grown. This also helps to determine the stage of the cancer.

Esophageal cancer treatment depends largely on the type of cancer, adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, the stage and the location of the tumor in the esophagus.  Unfortunately, most patients will present with the more advanced stages of disease. For patients who present with early stage disease, sometimes we can pursue endoscopic treatment options. This is only possible for the earliest stages of disease and will not be the majority of patients. 

The most common treatment for Stage II and Stage III esophageal adenocarcinoma is a combined approach consisting of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and then surgery. Patients need to be in good overall physical shape and general health to undergo this type of treatment. Patients with stage III disease who may not be surgical candidates will receive chemotherapy and radiation alone. Patients who present with stage IV disease will often receive chemotherapy and possibly radiation depending on their symptoms.  

Each patient is different, and individualized treatment plans are offered for most patients that best match the clinical scenario. TMCA is home to a multidisciplinary tumor board that reviews each case to formulate a treatment plan. Specialists with diverse backgrounds and years of experience pull from their own expertise to craft the most effective treatment plan for yours or a loved one’s esophageal cancer. 

The Recovery Process 

For patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation, recovery time often depends on the length of the treatment, cancer stage and individual history of illness. If the chemotherapy and radiation are part of multimodality therapy with a planned surgical resection, surgery will take place about 6-8 weeks after you have finished chemotherapy and radiation. This gives you time to recover and gain your strength back before undergoing a major operation. Patients who then have surgery to remove the esophageal cancer can expect to be in the hospital for 5-7 days if there are no complications. 

The TMCA surgical staff and esophageal cancer care team are as focused on ensuring a comfortable, swift recovery as they are in providing you or a loved one with the most effective treatment methods.