Chemotherapy uses a combination of drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is a systemic treatment (i.e., affects cells throughout the body) and may be used in combination with radiation to relieve symptoms. It is not used as a primary treatment for esophageal cancer.

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. But it can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or cause your hair to grow. Damage to healthy cells may cause side effects. Often, side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.

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Common side effects include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth and lip sores
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rash and itching

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