Why Choose Cedars Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Esophageal Cancer Treatment?
By virtue of the state-of-the-art technology our hospital is equipped with, our talented surgeons can perform a wide range of procedures for the treatment of esophageal cancer. We strive to employ minimally invasive surgery for the treatment of esophageal cancer whenever possible, which will help you experience a faster recovery with low risks of postoperative complications. Since 1969, our hospital has been providing the community of Los Angeles with quality healthcare and treatment and our team of medical professionals will gladly offer you the care you need in a warm and compassionate environment, as we are aware that most cancer patients are in a lot of physical and emotional suffering.
The esophagus, which connects the mouth to the stomach, is a very important part of the digestive system. It facilitates the movement of the food you ingest from the back of your throat to your stomach. However, since cancer can affect nearly any organ and tissue in the body, the esophagus is, unfortunately, no exception. When malignant cells begin growing on the esophagus, esophageal cancer develops. Usually, esophageal cancer occurs in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus, but it can occur anywhere along it.
It is worthy of note that the number of men who develop esophageal cancer is larger than the number of women who come to struggle with this disease. Worldwide, esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death. In the United States, the disease is slightly less common, but there are still over 16,000 people who pass away due to it every year.
The treatment you will receive for esophageal cancer will highly depend on the stage your disease is in, the type of malignant cells involved in the tumor, and your overall health. Surgery is often used to treat esophageal cancer, regardless of the stage of the disease. The surgery you will undergo will entail one of the following:
- the removal of the malignant tumors: if your esophageal cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, only the malignant tumors that developed inside your esophagus will be removed with the use of a medical tool known as an endoscope
- the removal of a portion of your esophagus: this procedure, medically known as esophagectomy, entails the removal of a portion of your esophagus that has been affected by cancer
- the removal of a portion of your esophagus and of a portion of your stomach: esophagogastrectomy implies the resection of both a portion of your esophagus and a portion of the upper part of your stomach in the regrettable case your cancer has spread to it
While surgery to treat esophageal cancer involves noteworthy risks, such as infection, bleeding, and leakage from the area where the rest of the esophagus was reattached to the stomach, the skillful surgeons at Cedars Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital have vast knowledge in performing these procedures with minimal postoperative risks. Following surgery, you will be closely monitored by a team of medical professionals to ensure no serious complications arise during the first days of your recovery.
Surgery to treat esophageal cancer can be performed traditionally, by making a large incision in your neck, or laparoscopically, through several tiny incisions. The approach depends on the extent to which your esophageal cancer has spread. It is important to know that, if you have esophageal cancer, you will have to undergo chemotherapy before or after the surgery. When you undergo chemotherapy before surgery, which is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, the purpose of the treatment is to shrink the malignant tumors on your esophagus as much as possible. If you are recommended to undergo chemotherapy following the surgical procedure, which is known as adjuvant chemotherapy, the goal of the treatment is to remove the malignant cells that may have remained on your esophagus after the surgery. Some of the most common drugs used in chemotherapy to treat esophageal cancer are:
In severe cases, when surgery is no longer a viable treatment option, you may receive only chemotherapy, which has the purpose of keeping your disease under control for as long as possible. Radiotherapy may be used as well as a treatment for esophageal cancer, either before or after the surgery, typically in combination with chemotherapy. Another effective treatment for esophageal cancer is targeted drug therapy, which focuses on certain weaknesses of the malignant cells. It works by blocking these weaknesses, which causes malignant cells to die. Targeted drug therapy may also be used in combination with chemotherapy in patients whose esophageal cancer does not respond to other treatments. Lastly, immunotherapy is another treatment that may be effective in keeping esophageal cancer under control. It is usually employed in severe cases of esophageal cancer or when the disease reoccurs. The most common drug for immunotherapy in people with esophageal cancer is pembrolizumab.
Types of Esophageal Cancer
There are 3 types of malignant cells that occur with esophageal cancer:
The most common type of esophageal cancer is adenocarcinoma, occurring in over half of the people who develop this disease in the United States. It starts in the glandular cells that line the esophagus. The reason why these cells grow is the presence of a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, which increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Adenocarcinoma usually begins developing in the lower portion of the esophagus or in the upper part of the stomach. As the second most common type of esophageal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma also develops in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. It is often linked to excessive alcohol use and tobacco smoking. Finally, small cell carcinoma, the rarest type of esophageal cancer, starts in neuroendocrine cells, those that release hormones into the bloodstream in response to signals from the nerves. Nevertheless, in some cases, even rarer types of malignant cells were found in people who were suffering from esophageal cancer, such as sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, and choriocarcinoma.
Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
While people whose esophageal cancer is in the early stages rarely experience symptoms, when the disease advances, the following symptoms may be present:
If you notice any of the above symptoms, we strongly encourage you to seek medical assistance, as you may have developed esophageal cancer. People who have Barrett’s esophagus need to keep a close eye on their health, as their risk of developing esophageal cancer is significantly higher than that of the general population.
Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer
There are multiple tests and exams used for the diagnosis of esophageal cancer, the most commonly employed, as well as the most effective, being:
- barium swallow study: during this test, you will be asked to swallow a liquid that contains barium and will subsequently undergo X-rays, which will show potential abnormalities that occur along your esophagus
- endoscopy: with the help of a thin and flexible tube equipped with a camera, the doctor will examine your esophagus by inserting it through your mouth
- biopsy: if esophageal cancer is suspected, the doctor will perform a biopsy, which entails collecting a sample of tissue from inside your esophagus with the aid of endoscopy
If you receive a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, you will need to undergo additional tests and exams so that medical professionals can determine the extent of the damage the malignant tumors have inflicted on your esophagus. These tests and exams include:
It is worthy of note that there is also a series of blood tests used for the diagnosis of esophageal cancer. These are:
- complete blood count: this test has the purpose of measuring all types of cells present in your blood and can determine if you have anemia, which is a condition that occurs with esophageal cancer in many patients because their malignant tumors have been bleeding
- liver enzymes: because esophageal cancer can easily spread to the liver, having a test that shows whether your liver is functioning normally will help medical professionals determine whether your disease has metastasized
According to medical studies, the chronic irritation of your esophagus can eventually lead to the development of esophageal cancer. There are numerous factors that can cause irritation of the esophagus, including:
While there is no known cause of esophageal cancer, there is a strong causal relation between these risk factors and the occurrence of the disease. It is important to know that cancer, regardless of where it occurs in the body, is the result of the mutation of the DNA inside the cells. The risk factors above contribute to the mutation of the DNA inside the cells that line the esophagus over the years.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can lower your risk of developing esophageal cancer, including:
- quitting smoking: because tobacco smoke is highly irritant to the esophagus, avoiding it will reduce your chances of developing esophageal cancer
- drinking alcohol in moderation: if you choose to drink alcohol, you should always do it in moderation so as not to cause severe irritation to your esophagus
- eating more fruits and vegetables: having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was found to place people at a lower risk of esophageal cancer
- maintaining a healthy weight: obesity is another risk factor for esophageal cancer, which is why you should make sure your weight is within the normal limits for your height