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Statistics and outlook for oesophageal cancer

Men and women discussing non oesophageal cancer

This page is about the outlook for people with oesophageal cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for oesophageal cancer

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. The outcome of treatment for cancer of the oesophagus depends on a number of different factors.

Below, we present further information about the likely outcome of oesophageal cancer. There are no national statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts that check each section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wishes to read this type of information. Remember you can skip this page if you don't want to read it, you can always come back to it.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.
 

CR PDF Icon View a summary of treating oesophageal cancer.

 

 

About the information on this page

This page contains quite detailed information about the survival rates for oesophageal cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with cancer wishes to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note: there are no national statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts that check each section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot be regarded as any more than that.

 

Cancer statistics in general

We have another section explaining the different types of cancer statistics. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, you may find it helpful to read this before you read the information below.

Remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike and response to treatment also varies from one person to another.

You should feel free to ask your doctor what is likely to happen to you, based on your current circumstances (this is called your prognosis). But not even your doctor can tell you for sure what will happen. You may hear your doctor use the terms 1 year survival or 5 year survival. It does not mean you will only live 1 or 5 years. It relates to the number of people in research who were still alive 1 or 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for a number of years after treatment in any research study so that they can compare the results of different treatments.

 

Overall outcome

Of all those diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, about 42 out of every 100 people (42%) will live for at least 1 year after they are diagnosed. But unfortunately, only about 15 out of every 100 people (15%) will live for at least 5 years. And around 12 out of 100 people (12%) will live for at least 10 years.

As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of oesophageal cancer depends on how advanced it is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of your cancer.

Unfortunately, oesophageal cancer has a poor outlook overall because it is often diagnosed late. By the time someone has symptoms and goes to their doctor, the disease is very often in the advanced stages. This means it is difficult to find survival rates for each individual stage of the disease. 

Only between 20 and 30 out of 100 people are able to have treatment to try to cure their cancer (20 to 30%). In 2012, the National Oesophago Gastric Audit reported on the long term outcomes of patients who had treatment for cancers where the oesophagus meets the stomach (oesophago gastric junction) in England and Wales. Treatments to try and cure cancer included chemoradiation on its own, and surgery with or without chemotherapy beforehand (neo adjuvant chemotherapy). For those who had treatment to try to cure their cancer about 75 out of 100 people lived for at least 1 year after their diagnosis (75%). About 50 out of 100 lived for at least 2 years (50%). And around 40 out of 100 people (40%) lived for at least 3 years. Doctors will continue to follow up these people to get longer term statistics.

 

Other factors

There are 2 other factors that can affect your outlook, apart from the stage of your cancer

  • The grade
  • How well you are overall

Specialists grade cancer cells according to how similar they are to normal cells when looked at under a microscope. The grade gives doctors an idea of how the cancer might behave.

Doctors also have a way of grading how well you are generally. They call this your performance status. You may see this written PS. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself, but need some help. The scores go up to 4, depending on how much help you need. This is relevant to survival because overall, the fitter people are, the better able they are to withstand their cancer and treatment.

 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people.

The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. And they also don't tell us how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will determine your treatment and prognosis.

 

Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people in the future. There is information about clinical trials in the trials and research section.

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Updated: 30 April 2014