The Use of Lasers in Esophageal Cancer Treatment

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Esophageal cancer is a rare form of cancer, but its numbers are on the rise around the world (Staff, Mayo Clinic 1). This disease occurs when malignant or cancerous cells form in the tissues of the esophageal lining of the body’s gastrointestinal tract. The esophagus is responsible for moving swallowed food and liquids from the mouth into the stomach for digestion. It consists of several tissue layers, including the mucous membrane, muscle, and connective tissues. When cancer forms in the esophagus, it begins in the innermost layer of the tissue (the mucous membrane) and moves outward (towards the connective tissue layer) as it spreads (see Figure 1). It often goes undetected for many years, and in its later stages, this cancer is not easily treatable. Among those who develop esophageal cancer, their long-term survival rate is low, as it is estimated that only 12.5% of patients live five years beyond the date of diagnosis (Triesschejin, Martijn 5). The standard treatment option used to combat esophageal cancer is called an esophagectomy, in which the cancerous area of the esophagus is removed via surgery, however this procedure is very invasive, complicated, and is often times fatal. However, with today’s technological advancements, safer, less-invasive methods are beginning to replace this option and are proving to be successful in helping to extend the lives of those patients with severe esophageal cancer and aid in improving their quality of life.

One up-and-coming treatment option that is far more safe and practical than esophagectomy is the integration of lasers in photodynamic therapy, or PDT. Although it is still an experimental treatment, is ideal because it has no long-term side effects, is minimally invasive, can be done quickly with little recovery time, has the ability to precisely target the areas of the body where the cancer cells are present, and can be safely repeated multiple times until the desired results are achieved. Post-treatment, it has...
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