Background: The treatment of early-stage esophageal cancer and high-grade dysplasia of the esophagus has changed significantly in recent years. Many early tumors that were traditionally treated with esophagectomy can now be resected with endoscopic therapy alone. These new endoscopic modalities can offer similar survival outcomes without the associated morbidity of a major operation. However, a number of these cases may still require surgical intervention as the best treatment option. Methods: The current scientific literature, national and international guidelines were reviewed for recommendations regarding optimal treatment of early esophageal malignancy. Results: The primary advantage of surgery over endoscopic treatment lies in the reduced risk of recurrence as well as the ability to assess harvested lymph nodes for regional disease. We recommend that esophageal tumors that have invaded into the submucosa (T1b) or beyond should be treated with an esophagectomy. In addition, dysplastic lesions and cancers that demonstrate poorly differentiated pathology or lymphovascular or perineural invasion should be surgically resected. Finally, large tumors, multifocal lesions, tumors within a long segment of Barrett’s esophagus, tumors adjacent to a hiatal hernia, tumors that cannot be resected enbloc with endoscopic techniques should also be treated with an esophagectomy. Conclusions: When performed at high-volume centers in experienced hands, esophagectomy can have consistently good outcomes for high-grade dysplasia and early esophageal cancers, and should be considered as a treatment option.
ASJC Scopus subject areas