Oesophageal cancer treatment and diagnosis

The oesophagus is part of the digestive system. It carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Cancer in the oesophagus is rare, and it’s more common in men over 60.

 

What is oesophageal cancer?

Oesophageal cancer is cancer that begins in any part of the oesophagus (lower, middle or upper).

There are two main types:

  • Oesophageal adenocarcinoma – starts in the mucus glands of the oesophagus. It usually develops in the lower part of the oesophagusat the junction with the stomach
  • Oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma – starts in the inner lining of the oesophagus. It often develops in the upper and middle part of the oesophagus

Causes of oesophageal cancer

It isn’t clear what causes oesophageal cancer. But some things can increase your risk. These include:

  • A high-fat diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals over a long period
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having another oesophagus condition such as Barrett’s oesophagus which usually causes lower oesophageal cancer
  • Heavy drinking
  • Smoking

Symptoms of oesophageal cancer

It can be difficult to spot the first signs of oesophageal cancer. They may include:

Feeling tired, or shortness of breath

Indigestion or heart burn that doesn't go away

Nausea and vomiting related to eating

Pain or difficulty swallowing

Unexplained weight loss and losing your appetite

Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have oesophageal cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Tests and diagnosis

After discussing your symptoms, your doctor will usually examine your abdomen. They may look for small swellings or signs of oesophageal cancer. You may be referred to a specialist for some of the following tests:

  • Endoscopy – a camera test which looks at the oesophageal wall and enables biopsies to be taken
  • EUS endoscopic ultrasound which looks at the oesophageal wall in more detail
  • Scans including CT, MRI or PET-CT
  • Blood tests, including nutritional elements (vitamins and minerals)

Treatments we offer

Treatment of oesophageal cancer depends on its location (upper, middle, lower) and how advanced the cancer is. Your specialist doctor will discuss options with you which may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Meet our doctors

Our-doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Multiple selected

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 514 1185

Bristol

300 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Bristol, BS32 4SY

+44 (0)1454 642801

Cambridge

Fordham Rd, Newmarket CB8 7XN, UK

+44 (0)1223 633 664

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 676 351

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

+44 (0)203 613 9355

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)203 613 9356

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 676 898

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 386 599

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

+44 (0)1908 448 166

Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)1156 762 989

Oxford

Peters Way, Sandy Lane West, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 224 884

Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9280 0102

Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 008 5138

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 465 493