BACKGROUND: Laser treatment for malignant dysphagia is limited by recurrent intraluminal tumour requiring repeated treatment at four to eight week intervals. AIMS: To reduce the need for follow up treatment and to improve survival, patients successfully palliated by laser were treated with intraluminal radiotherapy. PATIENTS: 32 patients with inoperable oesophageal carcinoma (18 adeno and 14 squamous cell carcinoma). METHODS: The patients were initially palliated by a median of three laser treatments. They were then treated with intraluminal radiotherapy, receiving 10-15 Gy at 1 cm from the source as a single treatment with the Selectron system. Patients with squamous cell carcinoma also received external radiotherapy (30 to 50 Gy). RESULTS: After the radiotherapy nine patients survived a median of 22 (range 4-40) weeks without requiring any further endoscopic treatment. The remaining patients survived a median of 40 (range 4-102) weeks and required a median of three follow up endoscopic treatments over that time. Eleven patients developed fibrous strictures with no intraluminal tumour and were treated by dilatation. Twelve patients required dilatation and repeat laser therapy for a combination of fibrous stricture and recurrent intraluminal tumour. Six patients eventually required Atkinson tubes. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of laser treatment with intraluminal radiotherapy provides good palliation and may reduce the need for repeated endoscopic treatment. Fibrous stricture formation is a common complication.
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