What is it?
Esophageal blockage is the narrowing of your esophagus from cancer. When diagnosed with esophageal cancer, you may have trouble swallowing because the tumor can block the esophagus. Difficulty swallowing makes it very hard, if not impossible to eat food by mouth. You may also be at a greater risk for aspiration or when food “goes down the wrong pipe,” and gets into your lungs.
There are several treatment options available to help manage esophageal blockage and restore your ability to eat and drink.
- Stent: a tube made of metal mesh or plastic is placed in your esophagus, which expands the area that was compressed and allows a clear passageway for food and liquid to pass through.
- Laser therapy: a laser is used to destroy the cancer cells blocking the esophagus. Laser therapy may make swallowing easier for a while, but you may need to repeat the treatment several weeks later.
- Photodynamic therapy: A special medication is given which collects in the esophageal cancer cells. Two days after the injection, the doctor uses an endoscope to shine a special light (such as a laser) on the cancer. The drug becomes active when exposed to light and directly kills the cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy can help shrink the tumor.
- Balloon dilation: A tube is inserted through the blocked part of the esophagus. A balloon helps widen the opening. This method helps improve swallowing for a short time.
When to contact your care team
If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing, coughing while eating or difficulty eating/drinking, contact your care team for evaluation.
American Cancer Society. Palliative Treatment for Esophageal Cancer. 2017. Found at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/esophagus-cancer/treating/palliative-therapy.html