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Esophageal Cancer Treatments

We understand it is overwhelming to receive an esophageal cancer diagnosis. When you come to The Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center for treatment, you’ll receive the expert care you would expect from a national leader in esophageal cancer treatment, as well as a level of thoughtful, responsive and compassionate support you may not have expected.

Why Choose Johns Hopkins for Esophageal Cancer Treatment?

As a leading cancer program situated within a world-class academic medical center, we offer our patients a special level of service when it comes to esophageal cancer treatment. Here are some of the ways in which we’ll care for you:

  • The ultimate in personal treatment: While many cancer treatment centers claim a multidisciplinary approach, ours is one of the few where your entire team, including doctors, dieticians, nurses and other specialists, meets together to develop an individualized treatment strategy. We’ll make sure you are fully informed, involved and guided through every step of your fight. Meet our team of esophageal cancer specialists.
  • Concierge consultations: For your convenience, we will organize a day of meetings for you, so you can spend quality time with your expert team of doctors and your personal cancer care coordinator. You will have time to ask all of your questions and discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan in depth. At the end of the day, you’ll leave confident in your course of treatment and your team. Learn about our expertise in esophageal cancer diagnosis.
  • Leaders in esophageal cancer medical oncology: In addition to helping to pioneer some of the biggest advances in esophageal cancer treatment in the last two decades, we also have one of the most comprehensive medical oncology programs in the nation. We continue to innovate new approaches to treatment with research and clinical trials—and we’ll let you know if you are eligible to participate in any of these. Learn more about our leadership in chemotherapy for esophageal cancer.
  • Some of the most experienced surgeons nationwide: Our surgeons perform 80 to 100 surgeries a year to treat esophageal cancer, which is one of the highest rates in the nation. Research shows esophageal cancer patients experience better results when they undergo surgery at a center with higher volume. Learn about esophageal cancer surgery at Johns Hopkins. 
  • Compassionate, full-service care with a family feel: Our patients say what they like best about coming to Hopkins is that they’re seeing some of the nation’s leading cancer experts, but they still feel like family members. We look forward to getting to know you and your family. We go the extra mile to make you as comfortable as possible while you’re with us. Learn about our patient support services.

Esophageal Cancer Treatment: Our Approach

The nature of esophageal cancer demands an all-hands-on-deck strategy that is different from other types of cancer. Research shows the best recovery results involve not just one oncologist but also a whole team of doctors. At Johns Hopkins, our team includes specialists from many disciplines who have been working together for years, perfecting their game plan to give you unequaled care and the most effective treatment.

Through our multidisciplinary approach, you’ll experience:

  • Careful and thorough collaboration among our highly experienced radiologists, medical oncologists and cancer surgeons
  • Close involvement of dieticians and nutritionists to address the unique eating and drinking complications associated with esophageal cancer
  • Personalized help from a dedicated coordinator who will oversee all of your appointments, special needs and side effect management throughout your treatment
  • Help from additional cancer specialists with navigating home care, emotional support, caretaker needs, health insurance, transportation—or any other concerns you and your family might have

Take a video tour of our multidisciplinary clinic.

Combined Treatment for Esophageal Cancer

Treatment for esophageal cancer is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Most treatment plans involve neoadjuvant therapy, a widely used approach that our researchers helped pioneer.

  • Neoadjuvant therapy is a combination of radiation and chemotherapy that aims to shrink tumors and prevent their reoccurrence before surgery.
  • Treating with chemotherapy and radiation together halts the spread of microscopic tumors that have developed beyond the original tumor site.
  • Research also shows patients recover more quickly from radiation and chemotherapy when they are performed before surgery rather than after.

When developing the most effective treatment plan for your unique case, we consider many factors including:

  • The stage of your cancer when it is discovered
  • Your overall health and nutrition levels
  • The location of the tumor site
  • Your personal preferences for different treatment options

Dr. Richard Battafarano, Regional Director of General Thoracic Surgery, discusses our approach to surgery and treatment.

Nutrition Therapy

Esophageal cancer uniquely affects the body’s ability to receive nutrition normally (through eating and drinking), so many people experience malnutrition and dehydration before receiving a diagnosis.

Your treatment plan might include a phase of healing and building up your body’s strength before tackling the cancer itself. Dieticians are part of your team from the very beginning and play an important role throughout your course of treatment. Learn about our patient support services.

Radiation for Esophageal Cancer

Radiation aims to shrink the primary tumor or lymph node. Studies have shown that its use in esophageal cancer treatment has improves survival rates. We offer the most advanced technology in radiation therapy, as well as the depth of experience required to use it in the safest, most effective amounts. Learn more about radiation therapy for esophageal cancer.

Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy for Esophageal Cancer

Chemotherapy, or medical treatments for cancer, uses powerful drugs to kill cancerous cells and prevent their reoccurrence. Targeted cancer drugs, new combinations of chemotherapy, epigenetic drugs, and other treatment approaches called immunotherapy are some of the most promising areas of research at Johns Hopkins. Our doctors are leading numerous national and international clinical trials. Current research, led by Dr. Ronan Kelly, is investigating new immunotherapeutic drugs for stage II-IV esophageal cancer. Immunotherapy holds the promise to be the next significant advance in the treatment of esophageal cancer. Learn more about chemotherapy for esophageal cancer.

Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer surgery requires special expertise because tumors are usually located in the chest, near the heart, lungs and main arteries. We have some of the most experienced esophageal cancer surgeons in the nation, who perform between 80 to 100 esophageal cancer surgeries a year. Research shows esophageal cancer patients experience better results when they undergo surgery at a center with higher volume. Learn more about esophageal cancer surgery.  

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