Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is esophageal cancer diagnosed?

To diagnose esophageal cancer, your doctor will need to conduct a physical examination and speak to you about your symptoms, lifestyle and family medical history.

If cancer is suspected, your doctor will likely recommend a scope or biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. These include:

  • Endoscopy, a type of scope in which a tube with a camera attached will be passed down your throat and into your oesophagus, allowing your doctor to view any abnormalities or tumours, and collect a sample for testing if needed
  • Biopsy, in which a sample of cells are collected for testing in a laboratory

How is esophageal cancer treated?

Treatment for esophageal cancer will depend on the type, stage and location of the cancer. Your doctor will also take into consideration your age and overall health.

There are 3 main approaches which are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy:

  • Surgical methods include endoscopy to remove small tumours, or esophagectomy to remove the part of the esophagus where the tumour is located together with the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Radiotherapy is the use of high-powered energy beams to destroy cancer cells. It may be delivered from outside the body (external radiation) or be placed inside the body where the cancer is located (brachytherapy).
  • Chemotherapy involves the use of strong drugs to kill cancer cells, administered orally or intravenously. It may be used together with radiotherapy as an alternative to surgery for some patients.
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