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Patient care — conditions, diseases

Treatment of esophageal cancer:

When esophageal cancer is localized to the esophagus and has not spread elsewhere (metastasized), surgery is the treatment of choice. The goal of surgery, in most cases, is to cure the patient. In some circumstances chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two will be used to make surgery easier to perform.

In patients who cannot tolerate surgery, or in situations where the cancer has spread to other organs (metastatic disease), chemotherapy or radiation may be used to help alleviate symptoms (palliative therapy). In such circumstances, however, the disease is usually not curable.

Other treatments that may be used to improve a patient's ability to swallow include endoscopic dilation of the esophagus (sometimes with placement of a stent) or photodynamic therapy.

Esophageal cancer is a very difficult disease to treat, but it can be cured in patients whose disease is confined to the esophagus. In circumstances in which surgery can be performed, cure rates are in the range of 25%.

In some circumstances in which the cancer is localized to the esophagus and radiation therapy is used instead of surgery, cure is possible but is less likely than with surgery.

For patients whose cancer has spread outside the esophagus, cure is generally not possible and treatment is directed toward relief of symptoms.

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