Esophageal Cancer Treatment Approaches
Esophageal cancer is often at an advanced stage upon diagnosis, so treatment needs to be rapid and aggressive, requiring the expertise of specialists who are experienced in treating the disease. And because esophageal cancer rarely exhibits symptoms in the early stages, it is often advisable to treat precancerous conditions—such as Barrett’s esophagus—upon detection as well.

At City of Hope, a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields — including thoracic surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and supportive care medicine — work together to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient for optimal results.

Therapies we use to treat cancer and pre-cancer of the esophagus may include:

Endoscopic Therapy

Our surgeons specialize in a minimally-invasive procedure called radiofrequency ablation (Barrx™), which uses an orally inserted endoscope to deliver an electrical current that heats up and destroys the cancerous tissue. This procedure is also effective in treating precancerous cells found in the esophagus as well as Barrett’s esophagus.
For early stage esophageal cancers, we also perform endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), which uses the endoscope to remove small tumors from the esophagus, without the need for an incision. These are outpatient procedures and patients can go home on the same day.


Surgery is often the primary treatment for esophageal cancer.
City of Hope’s thoracic surgeons specialize in  minimally invasive and robotically-assisted surgical procedures for esophageal cancer, which can remove cancerous tissue with less discomfort for the patient. By using smaller incisions compared to an open procedure, patients experience less pain and recover faster. City of Hope surgeons are among the most experienced with robotic esophagectomy in the world.
Learn more about our surgery options for esophageal cancers »

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is often used in conjunction with other therapies to treat esophageal cancer. For cancers of the esophagus, radiation may be applied externally using one or more beams focused on the tumor or internally using radioactive seeds that are implanted into or near the tumor site (brachytherapy).
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers Helical TomoTherapy , an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging that results in more focused beams of radiation focused on the tumor while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs, including the heart, lungs and spine.

Drug Therapy

Chemotherapy – the use of anticancer medicines – includes a wide range of drugs to treat primary and metastatic esophageal cancer. Additionally, targeted therapy drugs can attack esophageal cancer cells without impacting normal tissues and organs.
Drug therapy can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery or radiation therapy, by shrinking the tumor before the procedure and making it easier to remove (neoadjuvant therapy), or given after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence (adjuvant therapy.)
At City of Hope, patients have access to both both standard drug regimens as well as newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through an extensive program of clinical trials.
As part of the treatment team, a medical oncologist will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the drug therapy, if appropriate, can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.

Become a Patient

If you have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.