Cryotherapy isn’t a curative treatment for stage 4 esophageal cancer. Instead, it’s used to relieve one of the major symptoms of this stage: difficulty swallowing.
Esophageal cancer in stage 4 can be difficult to treat. In this advanced stage, treatments focus on slowing down the progress of the cancer and on relieving the symptoms.
One of the major symptoms of stage 4 esophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia. Cryotherapy is a safe and noninvasive option treatment option for dysphagia. It can treat damaged esophageal tissue, improve your ability to swallow, and has few side effects.
Cryotherapy won’t help cure esophageal cancer in stage 4, but it can provide symptom relief and improve quality of life.
Cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures to treat a range of conditions, including many types of cancer. In recent years, it’s become a more common treatment for skin, cervical, and esophageal cancer.
Often, cryotherapy treatment is associated with early-stage esophageal cancer, but it can also be used for stage 4 esophageal cancer.
For people in stage 4 esophageal cancer, cryotherapy can be used palliatively to help relieve symptoms. Specifically, cryotherapy is to treat and prevent difficulty with swallowing, called dysphagia.
Dysphagia can be a serious concern for people with stage 4 esophageal cancer, and cryotherapy can provide significant relief. It can help people continue to eat and drink independently.
Cryotherapy for stage 4 esophageal cancer uses liquid nitrogen. This treatment method has been shown to be safe and effective. It’s a good option for people who can’t have tumor removal and who need palliative care treatment for the symptoms of later-stage esophageal cancer.
Research shows that cryotherapy is an effective treatment for dysphagia caused by stage 4 esophageal cancer. Cryotherapy won’t cure esophageal cancer at this stage, but it can provide relief for dysphagia.
In studies, the majority of people with stage 4 esophageal cancer who received cryotherapy treatment saw improvement on the dysphagia scale. People were able to maintain their swallowing ability and saw minimal side effects.
The exact success rates varied by study, but on average, between 60 and 70% of people treated with cryotherapy improved by more than one point on a scale of 1 to 5.
Pressurized gas is then pushed through this tube and into your esophagus. The procedure is typically done outpatient (allowing you to go home on the same day) and can be performed quickly.
Some people experience side effects like mild chest discomfort, bleeding, and scarring of esophageal walls.
Stage 4 esophageal cancer is advanced cancer. It’s harder to treat than earlier stages.
Typically, treatment at this stage is focused on relieving symptoms and keeping the cancer under control rather than on trying to cure the cancer. This means that options used in earlier stages, like surgery, aren’t normally offered. Instead, your doctor might put together a treatment plan that includes:
- radiation therapy for pain and dysphagia relief, especially if esophageal cancer has spread to your brain or spine
- chemotherapy to slow down the progress and spread of cancer
immunotherapyto increase the quality of life and survival length
- a jejunostomy, often called a feeding tube, to provide nutrition for people who develop advanced dysphagia
- esophageal dilation, which uses a ballon-like device to stretch the esophagus and help treat dysphagia
- Multiple endoscopic esophageal treatments to help relieve dysphagia, including stent placement, like:
- Pain relieving medications and treatments to keep pain under control and to keep people with stage 4 esophageal cancer comfortable
In stage 4 of esophageal cancer, cryotherapy isn’t used as a curative treatment. It won’t remove or treat tumors. But it can treat damaged esophageal tissue. This can make it much easier for someone with late-stage esophageal cancer to swallow.
Cryotherapy is considered a safe and effective treatment for dysphagia caused by stage 4 esophageal cancer. The treatment can be done outpatient and has few reported side effects.
Cryotherapy is typically done as part of a palliative treatment plan for stage 4 esophageal cancer. Other palliative treatments might include pain relieving treatments, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and more.