Stage 4 esophageal cancer is the final stage of the disease that is characterized by the cancer spreading into a person's lymph nodes, according to the American Cancer Society. From there, the cancer usually spreads to distant parts of the body.
Because of the nature of stage 4 esophageal cancer, it is extremely difficult to treat, states the American Cancer Society. Surgery is often not an option at this late stage, as the cancer has spread to many different parts of the body. The goal in treating the cancer at this point is to keep it under control for as long as possible and relieve any symptoms the cancer is causing. Possible treatments include radiation therapy, which may be useful if a person is having trouble swallowing.
Chemotherapy is another common treatment at this stage in the disease's progression, according to the American Cancer Society. Doctors may also combine the chemotherapy drugs with a targeted drug called trastuzumab if the particular cancer in question is HER2 positive. These treatments are usually effective in extending a patient's life and helping her feel better. If a person's cancer started in the gastroesophageal junction, the targeted drug called ramucirumab may be an option, as it can be combined with chemotherapy drugs in the same way as trastuzumab.