Esophageal Cancer Treatment

We know that you may be nervous after receiving an esophageal cancer diagnosis. The compassionate, expert team at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute is here to help you.

Our physicians, surgeons, and oncologists have dedicated their careers to treating and studying cancer of the esophagus. Our experienced team works together and across multiple disciplines to determine the strongest, most effective treatment plan for you.

Expert esophageal cancer treatment at AHN

We use the latest techniques and technology to provide a comprehensive treatment plan. At the Cancer Institute, you will find:

  • Convenient care: You meet with multiple expert physicians and specialists during one visit to our sophisticated treatment center, saving you time and energy. A dedicated scheduler helps you coordinate all of your appointments and manages paperwork. We help lift the burden of logistics so you can focus on getting better. You also benefit from our comprehensive support services, such as support groups, palliative care, and cancer genetics.
  • Expert team: A tumor board reviews your diagnosis and treatment plan. A tumor board is a cancer care meeting that includes esophageal cancer experts, who work together to plan your treatment.
  • Leading-edge treatment: In addition to minimally invasive surgery options, we offer chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy treatments. Our selection of clinical trials for esophageal cancer is one of the most robust in the nation.
  • Rehab support: If you need rehabilitation, you will work with nutritionists, physical therapists, and speech pathologists at our new Voice, Swallowing, and Nutrition Center. We help you regain your function so you can get back to living your life.

Treatment options for esophageal cancer

Depending on the stage of the cancer, we may use a single treatment technique, or we may combine therapy options to give you the best results. At every step of the way, we discuss your options and consider your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Esophageal cancer surgery

Surgeons at the Cancer Institute use the latest techniques and technologies, and are among the most experienced in the country. Their expertise ensures that you receive the most comprehensive treatment plan with the best possible results.

We have an array of endoscopic therapies for early cancers that can save the esophagus. If we detect the cancer early enough, endoscopic therapy may be enough. You may not need other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our advanced surgical options include:

  • Ablation: This procedure uses either electrical current or extreme cold to burn or freeze a part of a cancerous lesion for removal.
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): We perform this procedure with a long, narrow tube equipped with a light, video camera, and other instruments. We pass the tube (endoscope) down your throat to remove the cancerous cells in your esophagus.
  • Minimally invasive esophagectomy: This procedure uses an endoscope to remove the diseased portion of the esophagus. We then connect the remaining esophagus to your stomach.
  • Esophagogastrectomy: We remove part of your esophagus, nearby lymph nodes, and a portion of your stomach. We attach the remainder of your stomach to your esophagus, so you can maintain your ability to eat and digest food.

Radiation therapy for esophageal cancer

Treatment for esophageal cancer may require radiation therapy (high-dose radiation beams directed at the tumor) alone or before or after surgery.

At the Cancer Institute, we use sophisticated technology, including advanced computer software and imaging. In fact, we’re the only radiation oncology network in western Pennsylvania accredited by the American College of Radiology. This accreditation means the Cancer Institute meets specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and efficiency of equipment.

Our advanced radiation therapies include:

  • External beam radiation therapy: We direct beams of radiation at the area where the cancer is located or was located before surgery. Using advanced technology, we pinpoint the radiation beam precisely at the affected areas. This process prevents radiation from affecting normal tissue and reduces side effects.
  • Internal radiation therapy: Instead of aiming radiation beams from outside the body, we place tiny, radioactive pellets into the esophagus during an outpatient procedure. We can give the maximum radiation dose to cancerous tissues while limiting exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Medical oncology for esophageal cancer

Our expert oncologists treat patients using a variety of medications. You may receive these drugs by vein (intravenously) or through the mouth (orally). Sometimes this treatment may be the only one you need. Other times, you may have the treatment before or after surgery to ensure better results. Our advanced medical oncology therapies include:

  • Chemotherapy: These powerful drugs can kill cancer cells. These medications often cause side effects, such as nausea and hair loss. Our team works with you to minimize side effects as much as possible.
  • Targeted therapy: This therapy causes fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy. It works by attacking specific genes within the surrounding blood vessels to stop the cancer from growing.
  • Immunotherapy: This therapy helps your own immune system better fight the cancer.

Clinical trials for esophageal cancer

Through our partnership with AHN’s Esophageal Institute, we have a robust clinical trials program that is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country.

Features of our clinical trials program:

  • Renowned partnerships: As a patient, you have access to the clinical trials we have here as well as guided access to the clinical trials of our distinguished partners. We are also a study site for federally funded trials through the National Cancer Institute, the country’s leader in cancer research.
  • Expert staff: Our research coordinators focus all of their time and effort on esophageal cancer, so they are experts in the field.
  • Pioneering research: We understand the disease from every angle. We’re on the frontlines of patient care, plus we analyze esophageal cancer in the laboratory. We conduct our own studies, which we share with the greater esophageal cancer community to move the science forward.

Palliative care for esophageal cancer

When esophageal cancer is caught in an advanced stage, surgical removal of the tumor may not be an effective treatment option. Palliative treatments will not cure the cancer, but they can make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Palliative care options include:

  • Stent placement: We may use this to reduce the size of an esophageal tumor. This procedure improves swallowing ability and opens the esophagus to allow for food passage.
  • Cryoablation: Using extreme cold, we reduce the size of an esophageal tumor and alleviate swallowing discomfort.
  • Dilation: This procedure stretches out an area of the esophagus that is narrowed or blocked. We pass a small, balloon-like device into the esophagus and blow it up to expand the area.

Rehabilitation after esophageal cancer treatment

Many of our treatment plans for esophageal cancer are minimally invasive and have a quick recovery time. After more complex procedures, rehabilitation may be necessary.

There is no better place in the nation to recover than in our advanced clinic. The clinic is part of the Esophageal Institute and includes our leading-edge Voice, Swallowing, and Nutrition Center, which helps you resume a full life following treatment. You have access to:

  • Speech pathologists
  • Nutrition counselors
  • Physical therapists
  • Gastrointestinal nurses
  • Behavioral health counseling

Contact us

Call the AHN Cancer Help Line anytime at (412) NURSE-4-U (412) 687-7348 to schedule a cancer-related appointment or to just talk with our nurses about diagnoses, treatments, and side effects.