Treatments for esophageal cancer: a review

Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Jun;61(6):330-5. doi: 10.1007/s11748-013-0246-0. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer worldwide. The treatments for esophageal cancer depend on its etiology. For mucosal cancer, endoscopic mucosal resection and endoscopic submucosal dissection are standard, while for locally advanced cancer, esophagectomy remains the mainstay. The three most common techniques for thoracic esophagectomy are the transhiatal approach, the Ivor Lewis esophagectomy (right thoracotomy and laparotomy), and the McKeown technique (right thoracotomy followed by laparotomy and neck incision with cervical anastomosis). Surgery for carcinoma of the cervical esophagus requires an extensive procedure with laryngectomy in many cases. When the tumor is more advanced, neoadjuvant chemotherapy or neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy is added. The theoretical advantages of adding chemotherapy to the treatment of esophageal cancer are potential tumor down-staging prior to surgery, as well as targeting micrometastases and, thus, decreasing the risk of distant metastasis. Cisplatin- and 5-fluorouracil-based regimes are used worldwide. Chemoradiotherapy is the standard for unresectable esophageal cancer and could also be considered as an option for resectable tumors. For patients who are medically or technically inoperable, concurrent chemoradiotherapy should be the standard of care. Although neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery or salvage surgery after definitive chemoradiotherapy is a practical treatment; judicious patient selection is crucial. It is important to have a thorough understanding of these therapeutic modalities to assist in this endeavor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Esophagectomy / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mucous Membrane / surgery
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy