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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the prognosis of oesophageal cancer?

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  • 4

    Thanks

    Dr Salena Ward

    Bariatric (Obesity) Surgeon, General Surgeon, Upper GI Surgeon (Abdominal)

    I am a specialist Upper Gastrointestinal (gut) Surgeon, who performs surgery for weight loss, tumours of stomach and oesophagus, reflux, hiatus hernia and gallstones. I … View Profile

    Oesophageal cancer is generally not a very good cancer to have, but the prognosis depends very much on the ‘stage’ of the tumour (how advanced/large/extensive the tumour is).

    In basic terms:
    - if the cancer is only on the innermost lining of the oesophagus with no spread to other parts of the body or to lymph nodes, if treated appropriately, the likelihood of long-term cure is >90% (at this stage there are usually no symptoms)
    - if the cancer is a little bit into the wall of the oesophagus but not into lymph nodes or spread elsewhere then the likelihood of long-term cure if treated appropriately is maybe 50-60%.
    - if the cancer is through much of the oesophageal wall (this is usually the stage when symptoms of difficulty swallowing is noticed by the patient), with or without lymph node spread, but without spread elsewhere, the likelihood of long-term cure is maybe only 30-35%.
    - if there is spread elsewhere in the body (away from the oesophagus, called metastases), then long-term cure is just about 0% (very very rarely oesophageal cancer can respond dramatically to chemotherapy).

    You need assessment by a surgeon who treats oesophageal cancer and appropriate testing to find out what stage your oesophageal cancer is before a prognosis can be estimated.

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