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What Is Metastatic Esophageal Cancer?

Metastatic esophageal cancer is an advanced stage of cancer where malignant cells from the esophagus have spread to distant organs. This progression can significantly impact treatment options and prognosis. Understanding the journey of these cells provides insight into potential therapies and management strategies. How does this spread influence patient care? Continue with us to uncover the complexities of this condition.
Mark Wollacott
Mark Wollacott

Metastatic esophageal cancer is a late-stage evolution of a cancer affecting the esophagus. Metastatic is also known as metastasis and is the stage of the cancer where cancerous cells have spread from the original cancer to a different, non-adjacent, part of the body. Esophageal cancer is often a devastating disease with a poor prognosis, but there are options for treatment if caught early enough.

The esophagus is otherwise known as the gullet. It runs from the pharynx at the top of the throat down to the stomach sphincter, which protects the esophagus from stomach acids. While theoretically, food and water moves one way, phenomena such as heartburn and vomiting sometimes send substances in the opposite direction.

Early symptoms of metastatic esophageal cancer are few. This is one of the main reasons why the cancer has such a poor prognosis. Most obvious symptoms only become apparent when the cancer is in its later stages.

Surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, may be the course of treatment for a patient with metastatic esophageal cancer.
Surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, may be the course of treatment for a patient with metastatic esophageal cancer.

The most common symptom is a difficulty swallowing known as dysphagia. This can also be accompanied by pain related to swallowing known as odynophagia. Both symptoms lead the patient towards soft and liquid foods rather than tough solids such as meat and bread. Considerable weight loss and a loss of appetite also become apparent. Other symptoms include a hoarse cough, nausea and vomiting, but these other symptoms are easily confused with other diseases.

Chemotherapy is typically a treatment option for metastatic esophageal cancer.
Chemotherapy is typically a treatment option for metastatic esophageal cancer.

Men over 60 with a history of the condition in the family are most likely to develop metastatic esophageal cancer. Chances of developing the cancer are increased through certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and high levels of alcohol consumption. Several diseases such as Plummer-Vinson Syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also increase chances. GERD causes damage to the esophagus when the inner lining is affected by leaking stomach acids.

Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat metastatic esophageal cancer.
Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat metastatic esophageal cancer.

Several treatments for metastatic esophageal cancer are available. Surgery can remove a section of the esophagus by pulling the remainder up, including a portion of the stomach. Short-term survival rates are good for surgery when complemented by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, however, the development of metastasis greatly reduces survival rates. This development reduces survival rates to just 3 percent over five years.

Metastatic esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis.
Metastatic esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis.

The presence of metastasis reduces the likelihood of surgery. This is because the full extent of cancer development needs to be assessed. Lymph nodes are the most likely cause of cancerous spread from the esophagus. It is unknown how likely a cancer cell in the esophagus is likely to lead to metastatic esophageal cancer. Surgery is still possible as a means of treatment, along with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

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    • Surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, may be the course of treatment for a patient with metastatic esophageal cancer.
      By: derege
      Surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, may be the course of treatment for a patient with metastatic esophageal cancer.
    • Chemotherapy is typically a treatment option for metastatic esophageal cancer.
      By: tawesit
      Chemotherapy is typically a treatment option for metastatic esophageal cancer.
    • Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat metastatic esophageal cancer.
      By: Alex Tihonov
      Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat metastatic esophageal cancer.
    • Metastatic esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis.
      By: edbockstock
      Metastatic esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis.