Understanding Esophageal Cancer: Additional Treatment Options

In addition to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, there are also additional treatment options for esophageal cancer. 

Endoscopic mucosal resection

In endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), the inner lining of your esophagus is removed. EMR is often used for pre-cancer or cell changes. These are called dysplasia. EMR can be used for very early, small tumors of your esophagus. After you have this procedure, you will be given a medication that reduces stomach acid. This helps keep the cancer from returning.

PDT (photodynamic therapy)

If the cancer is found very early, PDT is an option. In this treatment, a harmless chemical is put into your bloodstream. This collects in the tumor for a few days. Then the doctor focuses a special laser light on the cancer through an endoscope. This light activates the chemical so it can destroy the cancer cells. The advantage of PDT is that it does not hurt normal cells. PDF does not work for cancers that have spread deeper or beyond the esophagus.

Side effects of PDT can include:

  • Swelling of the esophagus
  • Problems swallowing
  • Redness of the skin
  • Sensitivity to sun

These side effects are usually temporary. If you have PDT, you will probably have to stay indoors for about 6 weeks because of sun sensitivity.

PDF is also used to relieve symptoms of advanced cancer.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

This is used to treat Barrett’s Esophagus. This is a pre-cancerous condition in which the lining of your esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. In radiofrequency ablation, your doctor passes a balloon into an area of your esophagus. The balloon is inflated so that the balloon surface touches the inner lining of your esophagus. High-power energy travels through the balloon to kill the cells in the lining. Normal cells will then grow to replace the Barrett’s cells. You will need to take medications that keep your stomach from making too much acid after you’ve had this treatment. Your doctor will want to do regular endoscopies in the future to watch for changes to the lining of your esophagus.

Laser ablation

In laser ablation, an endoscope uses a laser to destroy cancer cells. Laser ablation can also open up your esophagus when it is blocked. This helps relieve swallowing problems. This treatment may need to be done every couple of months, because the cancer often grows back.


This method burns the tumor off with electric current. This can help relieve blockage.

Esophageal stent

This device is made of mesh. Using endoscopy, a stent is placed into your esophagus. Once there, it opens up to become a tube that helps hold your esophagus open. Stents can relieve problems swallowing.

Return to list of treatment options. 

Back to “Understanding Esophageal Cancer: An Introduction”