What is Oesophageal cancer?

Oesophageal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the oesophagus, the muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Cancer of the oesophagus is the 10th most common cancer in the world, and the third most common in men.

Oesophageal cancer is also called oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. It can also be called oesophageal cancer, oesophageal cancer, oesophageal cancer, and oesophageal cancer (cancer).

Can oesophageal cancer be prevented?

For people who have a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus, oesophageal cancer runs in families. This means that you are likely to be affected by it if you have a close relative who has it.

However, there is nothing you can do to prevent this condition.

Oesophageal cancer can be prevented in some people who have it.

For example, you can try to avoid taking medicines that can cause problems with the muscles in your oesophagus.

It’s also important to have your oesophagus checked regularly. This can help your doctor find cancers early.

What are the symptoms of oesophageal cancer?

Oesophageal cancer starts when abnormal cells in the lining of your oesophagus grow and divide.

The most common symptom of oesophageal cancer is a lump or swelling in your throat. This can cause a lump in your neck or chest, which can be a symptom of oesophageal cancer.

If you have symptoms of oesophageal cancer, it’s important to see your doctor. This is especially important if you’re a man. The symptoms of oesophageal cancer in men are:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling full quickly after eating
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or swelling in your neck or chest
  • Unexplained weight loss

In women, the most common symptoms are:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Feeling full, bloated, or gassy after eating
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Pain in your neck, chest, or throat

Oesophageal cancer can also cause:

  • A lump in your neck or chest
  • A cough
  • A hoarse voice
  • Blood in your spit
  • A sore throat
  • A dry cough
  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Weight loss
  • A feeling of fullness
  • A fever

How is oesophageal cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and past health. They will also do a full physical exam.

They may also:

  • Do a full blood test
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Do an abdominal and pelvic exam
  • Do a rectal exam

Your doctor will then talk to you about your symptoms, your medical history, and your family’s medical history.

You may also have:

  • A barium swallow, which is an X-ray study of your oesophagus
  • An oesophageal manometry, which is a study of the muscles in your oesophagus

If your doctor thinks that you might have oesophageal cancer, you may get a biopsy to see if the cancer is cancerous. This involves taking a sample of cells from the lump or swelling in your throat. These cells are checked under a microscope to see if they have cancer cells.

How is oesophageal cancer treated?

Treatment for oesophageal cancer will depend on the type of cancer you have, your general health, and your age. It will also depend on how far the cancer has spread.

Treatment for oesophageal cancer usually includes:

  • Surgery, which may remove the tumour and any cancer cells that may have spread
  • Chemotherapy, which uses medicines to kill cancer cells
  • Radiotherapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells

Your treatment team will discuss the treatment options they think are best for you. They will also explain the possible side effects of these treatments.

How can I manage oesophageal cancer?

You can manage oesophageal cancer by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Stopping smoking
  • Taking your medicines
  • Getting regular check-ups

You should also ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of the different treatment options.

How can I help manage oesophageal cancer?

If you have oesophageal cancer, it’s important to follow the advice of your doctor and treatment team. This will help you stay as healthy as possible. This includes eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

If you smoke, you should stop. This can help to slow down the growth of oesophageal cancer. You may also want to ask your doctor about other ways to help you stop smoking.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, you should also talk to your partner or family about the risk of passing the cancer on to your children.

They should also ask their doctor or other health professionals about the best way to prevent oesophageal cancer.

Where can I get more information?

If you have questions about oesophageal cancer, you can talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

Your doctor or pharmacist can also refer you to organisations that can provide more information, such as the American Cancer Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK, or the National Cancer Information Centre.

You can also visit our information page on oesophageal cancer for more advice.

Take action

Oesophageal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lining of your oesophagus. It can be treated, but it’s important to follow the advice of your doctor and treatment team.

You can also access information and support from a range of organisations.

  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Cancer Research UK
  • National Cancer Information Centre
  • National Cancer Information Centre (UK)
  • Cancer Research UK (Cancer Research UK)
  • National Cancer Helpline
  • Macmillan Cancer Helpline
  • Cancer Helpline

Oesophageal cancer symptoms in women

  • Oesophageal cancer symptoms in men
  • Oesophageal cancer symptoms in children


Oesophageal cancer is treatable. Surgery can often cure it.

The survival rates for oesophageal cancer have improved over time.

The survival rate is now 79% for oesophageal cancer that’s treated with surgery.

Some oesophageal cancers are likely to come back after treatment.

Images by Freepik

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