Doctors treat esophageal cancer with a variable combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, depending on the type and stage of the disease, states Mayo Clinic. For esophageal cancer, doctors often use radiation therapy and chemotherapy together to treat larger or more advanced cancers, although they sometimes use chemotherapy alone when the cancer has spread widely through the body. Surgery can physically remove a tumor or a cancerous section of the esophagus and may include removal of the upper stomach.
Medical science divides the progress of esophageal cancer into four stages, each of which requires a different sort of treatment, Mayo Clinic explains. In stage 1, the cancer cells are only in the superficial layers lining the esophagus. In early stage 1, doctors can often remove the cancer surgically by passing an endoscope down the esophagus and using attached surgical tools to cut out the tumor. In stage 2, the cancer invades deeper layers of the esophagus and may spread to nearby lymph nodes. Surgery may still be effective in this case and involves removing a portion of the esophagus and the nearby lymph nodes. In stage 3, the cancer extends to the deepest layers of the esophagus and may intrude on nearby tissues. Stage 4 esophageal cancer spreads to more remote parts of the body.