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The main treatments for oesophageal cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
This page covers:
You'll be cared for by a group of different healthcare professionals and your team will recommend a treatment plan they feel is most suitable for you (see below), although final treatment decisions will be yours.
Your plan will largely depend on how far your cancer has spread – known as the "stage".
Read more about the stages of oesophageal cancer.
There are three main types of surgery for oesophageal cancer.
An oesophagectomy is the main treatment for early stage oesophageal cancer.
During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the section of your oesophagus that contains the tumour and, if necessary, the nearby lymph nodes. A small portion of your stomach may also need to be removed.
The remaining section of your oesophagus is then reconnected to your stomach.
To access your oesophagus, your surgeon will either make incisions (cuts) in your tummy and chest, or in your tummy and neck.
A procedure called endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) may sometimes be an option instead of an oesophagectomy if oesophageal cancer is diagnosed very early on.
It involves cutting out the tumour using a loop of wire at the end of a thin flexible tube (endoscope). The endoscope is passed down your throat so no incisions are made in your skin.
Sometimes radiowaves may also be used to destroy the cancerous tissue (called radiofrequency ablation or RFA).
For more advanced cases of oesophageal cancer that are causing swallowing difficulties, a procedure to insert a hollow tube called a stent into the oesophagus may be recommended.
The stent expands once in place and holds the oesophagus open.
Chemotherapy involves taking medicines that kill the cancer cells or stop them multiplying.
It may be used:
The medicines can be given into a vein or taken as tablets. You'll usually have the treatment every three weeks over a period of 6-18 weeks.
Common side effects of chemotherapy include:
These side effects should improve gradually after treatment stops. Read more about the side effects of chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy involves using radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.
It may be used:
Radiotherapy is most often given using an external machine that directs beams of radiation at your oesophagus, or sometimes by temporarily placing a small piece of radioactive material in your oesophagus (brachytherapy).
Common side effects of radiotherapy include:
These side effects should improve gradually after treatment stops. Read more about the side effects of radiotherapy.
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