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Esophageal Cancer Treatment Overview

As the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Georgia, Winship is a leader in the treatment of esophageal cancer. Our staff conduct innovative research and clinical trials that transform how these cancers are identified, treated, and survived. 

The radiation oncologists at Emory Proton Therapy Center work with the multidisciplinary Esophageal cancer team at Winship, which includes experts in thoracic surgery, surgical oncology, gastroenterology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, supportive oncology, dieticians, social workers, physical therapy, and cancer rehabilitation. Your esophageal radiation oncologist will work closely with these and other specialists to customize your esophageal cancer treatment plan and coordinate your care. We can also partner and coordinate with a patient’s existing care team, whether they are across town or around the world.

Proton Therapy for Esophageal Cancer

An esophageal cancer diagnosis can be one of the biggest challenges you and your family will ever face. Our team is dedicated to helping you meet that challenge through supportive care using the most advanced esophageal cancer treatments available. As a newer type of approach, Proton therapy may be a more precise radiation option for treatment of your cancer to help protect nearby organs like the heart and lungs. Our esophageal cancer specialists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that aims for fewer side effects and improved quality of life.

What We Treat

  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma
  • Gastroesophageal (GE junction) cancer
  • Re-irradiation

Benefits of Proton Therapy

In treatment of esophageal cancers, proton therapy can reduce or avoid radiation to surrounding healthy tissue and organs.

Depending on the tumor location and type, proton therapy may achieve the following benefits:

  • Reduced risk of inflammation of the heart (pericarditis) and future heart problems like hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), stiffening of the heart muscle (fibrosis, cardiomyopathy), and heart attacks.
  • Reduced risk of inflammation of the lungs (radiation pneumonitis), and problems with lung function (lung fibrosis).
  • Reduced risk of nausea and diarrhea.
  • Reduced radiation to the bone marrow and circulating lymphocytes, which may help support the function of the immune system in fighting cancer.
  • Reduced risk of low blood counts (anemia, neutropenia) which may support the body’s tolerance of chemotherapy.
  • Reduced risk of developing a future second tumor or cancer, which is most relevant in younger patients, those with a good prognosis and a long life expectancy, and those patients who may have genetic conditions putting them at higher risk for developing other cancers.

Schedule a Consultation

What to Expect With Proton Therapy

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The first step in your care is a consultation. During consultation, we review your medical history, perform a physical exam, decide if any additional tests are needed, discuss all radiation options that may be appropriate for your treatment plan, make recommendations, and answer questions. 

To plan your treatment, you will undergo a “simulation” or planning session. During this visit our radiation therapists will help position you the way you will be treated each day. A CT scan will be done to create a picture of you in the treatment position to design your radiation plan. It normally takes 10 days for the team to design the proton treatment plan and perform the quality assurance checks before treatment begins.

Proton therapy is typically delivered once daily during weekdays, Monday through Friday. Most patients with esophageal cancer receive five to six weeks of daily radiation with weekly chemotherapy, followed by surgery for those who are candidates for surgery. While some situations are treated with radiation alone, proton therapy is often integrated with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or other cancer treatments as part of a comprehensive plan of care.

Like other types of radiation, proton therapy treatments are invisible and painless. Most esophageal cancer treatments average 30 minutes each day in the treatment room.

Patients are seen by the radiation oncology physician team weekly during treatment to monitor progress, answer questions, address concerns, and manage any side effects from treatment. Your radiation oncologist will discuss a plan to assess response to treatment and for long-term follow-up after therapy.

Studies on Proton Therapy in Esophageal Cancer

Our team has identified these studies as examples of the clinical benefits of proton therapy in esophageal cancer.

Patient Stories