Chemotherapy is a common treatment for esophageal cancer. There are several different medications that can be used, and each one works in a slightly different way. However, the ultimate goal of chemo is to shrink or eradicate tumors by destroying rapidly dividing cells within the body.
Most patients with esophageal cancer elect to go undergo chemotherapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. By combining chemo with one or more other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy, patients are more likely to achieve full or partial remission. However, for patients who don’t want – or aren’t good candidates for – other therapies, chemotherapy may be recommended as the patient’s main form of treatment.
When designing a chemotherapy plan to treat a patient with esophageal cancer, oncologists will consider:
- What type of esophageal cancer the patient has been diagnosed with. For instance, certain chemotherapy medications are more effective for adenocarcinomas of the esophagus, while other medications have achieved better results for squamous cell carcinomas.
- Whether the patient is healthy enough to tolerate a more potent combination of chemotherapy drugs (and the side effects they might cause), or whether a less intense approach would be more appropriate.
- When chemotherapy should be administered. In some instances, it can be helpful to use chemotherapy before surgery, to attempt to shrink a tumor and make it easier for a surgeon to remove. In other cases, it’s better to use chemotherapy after surgery or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cells.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our team evaluates each of these factors, along with others, when developing a patient’s esophageal cancer chemotherapy plan. Our medical oncologists collaborate with a patient’s surgeons, radiation oncologists and other physicians to determine the best approach. From there, we design a tailored recommendation using evidence-based pathways to improve the patient’s quality of life throughout treatment.