Current Treatment Options in Oncology

, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 405-416

First online:

Prevention and management of early esophageal cancer

  • W. Michael KornAffiliated withUniversity of California

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Opinion statement

Early esophageal cancer is defined by its limitation to the esophageal mucosa and submucosa. It has become a curable malignant disease, in sharp contrast to the dis-mal prognosis of esophageal cancer at advanced stages, which still represents the majority of patients. Understanding the risk factors, establishing surveillance pro-grams for patients at risk, and developing preventative interventions such as dietary and lifestyle changes or pharmacologic interventions hold the potential of reducing the incidence of the disease and of shifting the stage distribution toward early cancer. Endoscopic ultrasound examination is pivotal for distinguishing early from advanced stages of the disease because it allows for accurate assessment of tumor infiltration and regional lymph node involvement. The therapeutic mainstay for early esophageal cancer remains surgery. New, less invasive surgical techniques are being tested that are associated with less morbidity and mortality than standard radical esophagectomies. For patients who are not candidates for surgery, definitive chemoradiation is a viable alternative. New endoscopic ablation techniques, such as endoscopic mucosa resection and photodynamic therapy, are potential alternatives to surgery in patients with cancers limited to the mucosa. For patients with adenocarcinoma of the gastroesophageal junction with submucosal involvement, adjuvant chemoradiation should be considered because of its potential to increase survival.