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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the treatment for oesophageal cancer?

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  • 3

    Thanks

    Dr Salena Ward

    Bariatric (Obesity) Surgeon, General Surgeon, Upper GI Surgeon (Abdominal)

    I am a specialist Upper Gastrointestinal (gut) Surgeon, who performs surgery for weight loss, tumours of stomach and oesophagus, reflux, hiatus hernia and gallstones. I … View Profile

    The best outcome for cancer would be to cure the cancer. The way any sort of cancer is cured or fully removed is with surgical resection (removal) and/or killing the cells.

    For oesophageal cancer (as with many other cancers) it depends a lot on how big the cancer is, where the cancer is situated, and if any of the cancer cells have moved from the main cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis). 

    For oesophageal cancer, after all the required tests, if the cancer appears to only be in the oesophagus and is in an accessible place for surgery, then the patient can have MAJOR surgery to remove the cancer and rejoin the gut but the patient has to be very fit to undergo the radical surgery.  Before and/or after the surgery the patient may also undergo chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy to help kill off any other cells that the surgery may not remove.  All this treatment may cure the patient, but is unfortunately not 100%.  This treatment also takes many many months to undergo and then potentially years to recover from, and usually patients will have altered lifestyle and eating habits forever.

    After all the tests, if the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, then surgery is not able to remove all the cells from the body and in this situation the cancer cannot be cured.  The treatment is then for symptoms ('palliative') and can be in a variety of forms, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or stenting (to open up the passage in the oesophagus to make swallowing a bit easier). It depends on symptoms and where the cancer is and the fitness of the patient as to which of these ‘palliative’ treatments can be used.

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