Esophageal cancer consists of malignant tumors found in the esophagus, which is the muscular tube extending from the throat to the stomach, through which food is passed to be digested. It is relatively uncommon in this country but if not treated can create problems throughout the body. Chronic irritation of the esophagus may be a contributing factor to its development.
There are two types of esophageal tumors, squamous cell carcinoma (tumor invasion that starts in the flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (tumor arising in cells located at the bottom or gastric end of the esophagus). Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the US. There has been an increase in the incidence rate associated with the widespread use of PPI therapy.
When the cancer in the esophagus has not spread to other parts of the body, the standard treatment is surgery. However, depending on the size and location of the mass, preoperative chemo and radiation therapy may be recommended. The objective of surgery is to remove the diseased part of the esophagus.
- Pain or sensations of food catching when swallowing
- Difficulty swallowing liquids or food
- Chest pain that is not connected with eating
- Weight loss due to eating less
- Vomiting Blood
- Persistent cough
It has been studied that the main causes of esophageal tumors are attributed to alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, acid reflux, and Barrett’s esophagus.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options:
Examinations used to detect esophageal tumors are barium swallows, MRI/CT scans, or upper endoscopies (esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD). Treatment options for esophageal tumors include:
- Surgery – specifically, esophagectomy or removal of the esophagus
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- A combination of the two (most common)
An esophagectomy is the surgical procedure to definitively treat esophageal tumors. With this procedure, part or the entire esophagus is removed and then replaced with either part of the stomach or colon.
“Laparoscopically assisted” esophagectomy is a surgical approach to treat esophageal cancer through several small incisions in the abdomen using laparoscopic instruments. Laparoscopically-assisted esophagectomy is encouraged for treatment of cancer and it is efficacious even after failures of other treatments. This less invasive approach is favored, because it is as efficacious and promotes a faster recovery. If you’d like more information on this type of surgical laparoscopic technique, call and schedule your appointment to discuss your condition.
With the addition of Robotics, we are now able to apply the robotic approach to esophagectomies. The assistance of the robot allows us to have access to hard to reach portions while still being minimally invasive.