PET Scans Can Help in the Adjustment of Treatment for Esophageal Cancer, Study Says

According to a story from, a recent study demonstrated that data gathered from PET scans could help providers tailor their treatment more precisely in cases of esophageal cancer, resulting in significant improvement in overall survival for patients. PET scans could reveal whether or not a patient was responding to induction chemotherapy, and doctors could then know when to switch to a different type of chemotherapy accordingly.

Esophageal cancer appears in the passageway from the mouth to the stomach. While it is generally rare, it is a dangerous type of cancer because it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. This is due to the fact that esophageal cancer rarely causes pronounced symptoms in its early stages. There are a number of risk factors, including the consumption of very hot beverages, alcohol, betel nut, and tobacco use, acid reflux, consumption of pickled and processed foods, and obesity. Men are more vulnerable to esophageal cancer than women, since female hormones play a protective role. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, a hoarse voice, weight loss, vomiting blood, swollen lymph nodes, and pain the chest and when swallowing. Even with thorough treatment, five year survival rate in the U.S. is just 15 percent. To learn more about esophageal cancer, click here.

When patients switched to a new chemotherapy after PET scans revealed that they were not responding the first type they tried, their median survival rate was 27 months. If this change was not made, then median survival was only 18 months. This is a significant improvement. Perhaps more interestingly, when PET scans revealed that a patient was responding well to the chemo regimen FOLFOX, maintaining this regimen resulting in a four year survival rate of 55 percent. This is the best statistical outcome reported with esophageal cancer; typically most patients pass within the first year of diagnosis with conventional treatments.

The results reveal the importance of monitoring responsiveness to treatment as regularly and as thoroughly as possible; PET scans are a valuable tool that allow caregivers to do this. Being able to adapt treatment to the circumstances of each case is essential for prolonging survival and getting the best possible outcomes for patients.

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