Esophageal/Oesophageal Cancer

CISS relies strongly in its evaluations below on impartial analyses by the International Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal’s Clinical Evidence Group – two groups of researchers who specialise in Evidence Based Medicine.

Conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer, therefore, treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer. Unfortunately statistics will show this is rarely the case. Conventional medicine also advocates treatment should only be used if supported by appropriate clinical trials showing efficacy. In fact evidence based medicine suggests that the only reliable evidence needs to come from properly run randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Again, with conventional cancer treatment, this is generally not the case.

The following is based on the conventional cancer paradigm.

The oesophagus is a muscular tube that moves food and liquids from the throat to the stomach. Oesophageal cancer is when malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the oesophagus. The most common types are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma begins in flat cells lining the oesophagus. Adenocarcinoma begins in cells that make and release mucus and fluids. (National Cancer Institute).

Risks: Risk of Oesophageal cancer is increased with smoking, with heavy alcohol use, in those who have reflux disease and in those with Barrett Oesophagus. But like all cancers, people with no risk factors can still be subject to this disease.

Signs and Symptoms: Weight loss, painful or difficult swallowing, hoarseness or cough, pain behind the breastbone, indigestion and heartburn.

Treatment: 6 types of standard treatment are used in conventional medicine for oesophageal cancer-

  1. Surgery – the most common treatment, which usually involves part of the oesophagus being removed. Please note: there is little evidence that surgery for cancer has any benefit on increased percentage 5 year survival except in cases where the tumour is in a life threatening position (The efficacy of surgical treatment of cancer, DJ Benjamin).
  2. Radiation – uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Please note: radiation has been shown to reduce recurrence with many types of cancer but this rarely results in increased survival. (The efficacy of radiotherapy, DJ Benjamin).
  3. Chemotherapy – the use of toxic drugs to kill the cancer cell or stop them from growing. Research by Morgan et al conclude that chemotherapy in oesophageal cancer may give a 4.8% 5 year survival benefit.
  4. Chemo radiation therapy – both chemotherapy and radiation are used
  5. Laser therapy – uses a narrow beam of intense light to kill the cancer cells
  6. Electrocoagulation – the use of an electric current to kill cancer cells (Australian Cancer Council)

Treatments 5 and 6 are both based on killing cancer cells so results are likely to be similar to those with radiation in 2 but probably with fewer side effects.

The above therapies all come with risks and side effects which should be discussed in detail by your treating physician.

Before deciding on one of these treatments you would benefit from asking your physician three questions:

Question 1: What are my treatment options? – These should include doing nothing.

Question 2: What are the possible outcomes of those options? – including benefits and side effects.

Question 3: How likely is each of the outcomes to occur?

If your doctor or other health practitioner cannot answer these questions, or shows that he or she is not comfortable with you asking these questions, it raises the question as to whether they are practising evidence based medicine and you should consider getting another opinion.

These three questions can be expanded.

Alternative Cancer Therapies

As mentioned above, conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer; therefore treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer.

Another paradigm believes that cancer is a systemic disease and the tumour is in fact a late stage symptom, element or manifestation of that disease. Therefore treating the disease should be systemic and wholistic (meaning treating the whole body) and should include the following principles:

Treatment should cause no harm

  1. Treatment should be Wholistic (ie consider the whole person – body, mind, emotions and spirit)
  2. The person with cancer needs to take control of their own health.

This latter paradigm is supported by CISS (See Introduction to CISS).

Alternative cancer therapies are generally consistent with the above principles. In fact those believed to be most effective in controlling cancer – psychotherapy and immunotherapy – also have strong evidence from randomised controlled trials.

There are approximately 200 other alternative cancer therapies that have been shown or anecdotally reported to help a person with cancer have reduced morbidity and mortality. What is important in any cancer treatment is to both understand and believe in your chosen therapy.

  • Psychotherapy

Although there were no patients with esophageal cancer among the 48 late stage cancers in the RCT evaluating psychotherapy there were 4 with late stage stomach cancer who experienced a 76% increase survival. It therefore expected that those with esophageal cancer would also experience an increased survival.

  • Immunotherapy
  • Iscador Therapy

Many clinical trials have shown benefits of Iscador therapy on people with different types of cancer. One analysis of 22 studies included 12 prospective studies, 5 randomised studies and 10 had a matched-pair design from which the authors identified 41 comparisons of Iscador vs no treatment. All but four showed a positive increased survival.

Although there were no people with esophageal cancer among those evaluated one would not expect a big difference in response from those who were evaluated.

  • Issels Wholebody Therapy

Although not based on RCTs the most successful therapy for late stage cancers including esophageal cancer was Issels’ Whole Body Therapy that focussed on restoring the body’s immune systems.

It was estimated that a representative sample, 252 of Issels’ patients with late stage cancers of whom 36 (14.4%) had late stage esophageal or stomach cancer, showed a 16.6% five-year survival following his treatment. This compares with less than 5% with standard treatment at the time. They also experienced a 15% 15-year survival compared with less than 2% for standard treatment. Four of those with esophageal or stomach cancer (9.2%) were among the 42 who survived 15 years in good health.

References: (Issels, J. Immunotherapy in Progressive Metastatic Cancer – A Fifteen-Year Follow-up. Clinical Trials Journal, August 1970: 357-365 – editorial by Phillips S. Dr Joseph Issels and the Ringberg Klinik. Clinical Trials Journal. August 1970: 355-56.)

In Oesophageal cancer, Ralph Moss (Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumers Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention) reports the following alternative therapies have been shown to benefit.

  1. B Vitamins – B vitamins enhance immune function; restore the nutritional status of cancer patients, especially those receiving conventional treatment; and enhance the effects while diminishing the side effects of chemotherapy.

In 1983, a large scale experiment was undertaken in China to see if vitamins could stop the formation of oesophageal cancer, which is common in parts of that country. Nearly 7000 people were examined, and 1,729 showed pre-cancerous signs of the gullet. These people were placed into 3 groups, one received a sugar pill (placebo), one received vitamin B2 and the other group received Chinese herbs.

After 3 years the group was re-examined and it was found the group who received Riboflavin (B2) had a 33.7 percent reduced incidence of oesophageal cancer. Interestingly, the group with chinese herbs had a 53% reduced incidence of oesophageal cancer.

Reference: LinPZ, et al. (Secondary prevention of oesophageal cancer – intervention on precancerous lesions oesophagus). Chung Hua Chung Liu Tsa Chih. 1988;10:161-6.

  1. Chinese herbs – Chinese herbs are now being shown to have dramatic effects against cancer as they can boost the immune system and increase the efficacy of chemotherapy, while decreasing side effects. See study under B vitamins.

In another Chinese study, 115 patients with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus were treated with either chemotherapy or with chemotherapy plus an herb called Rabdosia rubescens. In the first group (31 patients) there were two partial responses, and 8 minimal responses. In the group given the herb there were 59 responses out of 84 patients (70% response). Of these 10 showed 100% tumour regression.

Reference: Wang RL, et al. (Potentiation by rabdosia rubescens on chemotherapy of advanced oesophageal carcinoma). Chung Hua Chung Liu Tsa Chih. 1986;8:297-9.

  1. Molybdenum – Is a trace mineral found in almost all plant and animal tissues. By adding just two parts per million into drinking water, the formation of oesophageal or stomach cancer was “significantly inhibited” in a population in Northern China where these two cancers are of high incidence.


Yang CS. Research on oesophageal cancer in China: a review. Cancer Res.1980;40:2633-44.

Luo XM, et al. Inhibitory effects of molybdenum on oesophageal and forestomach carcinogenesis in rats. J Natl Cancer Inst.1983;71:75-80.

  1. Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant found in many foods. It is also one of the most promising items in the anti-cancer arsenal. It is vital in maintaining the health of the liver, for the absorption of iron and or the efficiency of the immune system. A lot of research can be found on the benefits of Vitamin C and cancer.

It was found the formation of cancer causing compounds is “inhibited by Vitamin C, vitamin E, and certain antioxidants. This fact can be used to decrease deliberately the risk of gastric cancer”

Reference: Weisburger JH and Horn CL.Human and laboratory studies on the causes and prevention of gastrointestinal cancer. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1984;104:15-26.

If you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, it is important you research and understand your chosen treatment, whether that be conventional, alternative or a mixture of both. For the best results your treatment should include physical, mental, emotional/psychological and spiritual treatment.

If you don’t know where to begin in your journey to wellness then we suggest you read Where To Start. This provides an introduction to the alternative approach to treating cancer and also information about some evidenced based alternative cancer treatments.


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