Surveillance or resection after chemoradiation in esophageal cancer
The treatment of locally advanced esophageal cancer continues to evolve. Previously, surgery was considered the foundation of treatment, but chemoradiation (CRT) has taken on a larger role both in the neoadjuvant setting and as definitive treatment. It has become clear that although some patients benefit from esophagectomy after CRT, a large subset of patients likely derive no benefit, and may be harmed by surgery. Some patients are cured from CRT alone and therefore do not need surgery. Another group of patients likely have metastatic disease at the time of local therapy that is just undetected on imaging and also do not benefit from surgery. A third group of patients will have persistent locoregional disease only after CRT. This last group is the subset who will actually benefit from surgery, but this likely comprises only a minority of patients with locally advanced disease. A strategy to maximize survival while minimizing unnecessary surgery is a reasonable goal, but present technology does not allow us to do this with certainty. Thus, the decision of whether to pursue resection or surveillance after CRT can be difficult as clinicians and patients try to balance the goal of maximizing the likelihood of cure against the risk of surgery and its impact on quality of life.