Esophageal Cancer is a serious form of cancer that develops in the esophagus, the long tube that connects the back of your mouth with your stomach. The most common types of esophageal cancer are adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular cells producing fluids such as mucus, and squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in flat cells of the esophageal lining. Although the causes of esophageal cancer aren’t known, chronic irritation from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus, smoking, obesity, and heavy alcohol use are leading risk factors for the disease.
- Difficulty in Swallowing
- Unintentional Weight Loss
- Chest Pain
- Heart Burn
- Hoarse Voice
- Endoscopy – During endoscopy, your doctor passes a flexible tube equipped with a video lens (videoendoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus. Using the endoscope, your doctor examines your esophagus, looking for cancer or areas of irritation. Samples of suspicious tissue can be collected (biopsy). The tissue sample is sent to a laboratory to look for cancer cells.
- Determining the Extent of the Cancer – Once a diagnosis of esophageal cancer is confirmed, additional tests may be ordered to determine whether your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or to other areas of your body. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), Computerized tomography (CT), Positron emission tomography (PET).
- Early Stage Esophageal Cancer – Cancer occurs when the abnormal cells involved in Barrett’s esophagus have rapid and uncontrolled growth and invade the deeper layers of your esophagus. This is called cancer of the esophagus, or esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). The cancer can also spread beyond the esophagus. A majority of patients with esophageal cancer have Barrett’s Esophagus, although unfortunately most of them don’t know they have it until cancer develops.
Until recently, all patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer were offered curative esophagectomy, surgery to remove the esophagus, to manage their disease. While this treatment is very effective for early-stage cancer, removing the esophagus significantly affects one’s ability to eat and live normally. A newer minimally invasive procedure has been developed to help patients with early-stage esophageal cancer. Good evidence has been published to show that patients can benefit from an Endoscopic Mucosal Resection. This procedure is done as an outpatient under sedation. A flexible tube is inserted into the esophagus via the mouth allowing the surgeon to remove a portion of the cancer from the lining of the esophagus. This lower risk procedure allows the patient to eat and live normally.
- Locally Advanced Esophageal Cancer – For advanced esophageal cancer, a minimally invasive esophagectomy is the recommended course of treatment. During this surgical procedure, part of the esophagus, which is the tube between the mouth and stomach, is removed and then reconstructed using part of another organ usually the stomach. The minimally invasive surgical esophagectomy techniques have evolved since the early days when the entire esophagus was removed and replaced with the stomach. Today, surgical treatment is based upon the size and location of the tumor. All esophagectomy procedures can be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques, which result in less pain, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery than traditional open surgery.
“Dr. Chiasson was part of the team that literally saved my life when I was diagnosed with cancer of the gastric/esophageal junction. His surgery was nothing short of miraculous. There are no signs of cancer and I am now having follow-up chemo and radiation therapy. I have a very well-founded hope of complete and long-lasting recovery. I’ve been told that this particular surgery if done in the traditional manner, requires at least two to three weeks of hospitalization and a prolonged period of recovery. I went home on the fifth day, already starting to eat on my own, and continued to add foods daily, in conjunction with a feeding tube for a short while. After that I was able to eat on my own, starting with thick liquids and soft foods, and after one month I continue to progress toward a “regular” daily life. Dr. Chiasson is not only a highly skilled surgeon who is on the cutting edge of technology but is also a wonderful, caring, and encouraging human being. Not once has he treated me as a “case” or indicated that I am too ill to continue my life. He has given me permission to eat whatever I feel ready to eat, and do whatever I feel ready to do. He has shown much-needed confidence that my wife and I have the intelligence to adequately take care of my needs during convalescence while living as full a life as possible. My wife and I will forever be grateful.” Bob F.