Treating Esophagus Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer of the esophagus that develops in someone with GERD or GERD with Barrett's esophagus, if not detected at an early stage, is usually fatal within a couple of years or, sometimes, months. If the cancer is detected early enough, surgery can be performed and may cure the cancer. Cure is possible only through radical surgery and only if the cancer is found not to have spread widely beyond the lower esophagus. Further information on this complicated topic can best be obtained from an experience gastroenterologist or surgeon.

Other treatments for esophagus cancer are palliative treatments, which means that they are designed not to cure the cancer but to solids, or even liquids, when the passageway for nourishment is narrowed because the cancerous tumor is growing inward form the lining of the esophagus or upper stomach. Thus, chemotherapy and radio-therapy are not used to cure esophagus cancer, but they are sometimes of value in reducing the rate of spread and providing palliative treatment.

The most effective palliation is provided by endoscopic techniques that dilate and hold open the area of the esophagus that is becoming closed off by the growth of the tumor. After dilation, wire cages are sometimes placed in the esophagus through the endoscope to preserve the person's ability to swallow liquids and solids for as long as possible. This, too, is a palliative treatment, not a cure, because it does not stop the spread of the cancer, but it does make it easier for the person to swallow and in that way helps to prevent malnutrition.

Of course, esophageal carcinoma is a dreaded complication of GERD. It must be emphasized that it is an uncommon complication, however, and it can be treated if detected early. People with Barrett's esophagus are at particularly high risk and should periodically undergo a screening endoscopy under the direction of a gastroenterologist.