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Oesophageal cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for oesophageal cancer by age and trends over time are presented here. The ICD code for oesophageal cancer in this section is ICD-10 C15. 

The statistics on these pages give an overall picture of survival. Unless otherwise stated, the statistics include all adults diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, at all ages, stages and co-morbidities. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. If you are a patient, you will probably find our CancerHelp pages more relevant and useful.

The latest survival statistics available for oesophageal cancer in England are 2005-2009 (followed up to 2010). Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

 

One-, five- and ten-year survival

The latest age-standardised relative survival rates for oesophageal cancer in England during 2005-2009 show that 40.2% of men are expected to survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 12.5% surviving five years or more (Table 3.1).1,2 The survival rates for women are similar, with 39.9% expected to survive for one year or more. Five-year age-standardised data is not available for females but the un-standardised rates show that 12.6% survive their disease for at least five years. Broadly similar rates have been reported for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.3-5

Table 3.1: Oesophageal Cancer (C15), Age-Standardised One-, Five- and Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009 and England and Wales 2007

Relative Survival (%)
1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009* 2007**
Male 40.2 13.4 10.2
Female 39.9 12.6 9.7

Download this table XLS (38KB)

*Five-year survival rates are not age-standardised
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

A common misconception is to treat five-year survival rates as ‘cure’ rates. However, for oesophageal cancer survival continues to fall beyond five years after diagnosis (Table 3.1).6

The five-year relative survival rates for oesophageal cancer are among the lowest of the 21 most common cancers in England.1 A contributing factor to the low survival rates of oesophageal cancer is that usually when the disease is at an early stage, and easiest to treat, there are very few symptoms. These symptoms tend to appear later when the cancer has progressed. It is therefore vital to diagnose oesophageal cancer at an early stage, before the development of symptoms, when treatment can dramatically improve prognosis.6 Although 46% of cases of oesophageal cancer are diagnosed by either GP referral or via a two-week wait,7 the survival rates are still quite low.

section reviewed 30/04/12
section updated 30/04/12

 

By age

As with nearly all cancers, relative survival for oesophageal cancer is higher in younger men and women, even after taking account of the higher background mortality in older people. The reasons for this are likely to include a combination of better general health, more effective response to treatment and earlier diagnosis in younger people overall. Differences in underlying tumour biology may also play a part.

The five-year relative survival rates for oesophageal cancer in men in England during 2005-2009 are low in all age groups. It ranged from 18% in 15-49 year olds to 4% in 80-99 year olds (Figure 3.1).1 Relative survival was similar in women for most of the age groups, ranging from 21% in 50-59 year olds to 4% in 80-99 year olds.

Figure 3.1: Oesophageal Cancer (C15), Five-Year Relative Survival Rates by Age, England 2005-2009

surv_5yr_age_oesophag.swf

Download this chart XLS (52KB)

section reviewed 30/04/12
section updated 30/04/12

Trends over time

As with the majority of cancers, relative survival for oesophageal cancer is improving. This can generally be attributed to faster diagnosis and improvements in treatment. However, there is still scope for improvement and increasing cancer survival rates remains a major priority of Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer.8 An outcome of this Strategy is the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI), which is a public sector/third sector partnership between the Department of Health, National Cancer Action Team, and Cancer Research UK. The role of NAEDI is to promote the earlier diagnosis of cancer and cancers with low survival rates such as oesophageal cancer, will be a priority.

One-year relative survival rates have been used as an indicator of early diagnosis, since death before one year could be due to the disease being diagnosed at a late stage. In men, one-year relative survival rates for oesophageal cancer increased from 15% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 40.2% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.2).1,6,10 In women, one-year relative survival rates increased from 17% to 39.9% during the same time periods, respectively. 

Figure 3.2: Oesophageal Cancer (C15), Age-standardised One-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and England 1996-2009

surv_1yr_oesophag.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards

While relative survival rates are still influenced by early diagnosis after five years, they are also strongly dependent on the success of treatment. In men, five-year relative survival rates for oesophageal cancer increased from 3% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 12.5% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.3).1,6,10 In women, five-year relative survival rates increased from 5% to 12.6**% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.3: Oesophageal Cancer (C15), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and England 1996-2009

surv_5yr_oesophag.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards
**Survival rates for 2005-2009 are not age-standardised

Ten-year relative survival rates for men diagnosed with oesophageal cancer increased from 3% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to a predicted** 10.7% in England in 2007 (Figure 3.4).2,6,13 In women, ten-year relative survival rates increased from 4% to a predicted** 9.3% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.4: Oesophageal Cancer (C15), Age-Standardised Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and Predicted 2007 and England 1996-2003

surv_10yr_oesophag.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are not age-standardised from 1971-1985
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

section reviewed 30/04/12
section updated 30/04/12

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References for oesophageal cancer survival

  1. For data for 2005-2009: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2005-2009 and followed up to 2010. London: ONS; 2011.
  2. For data for 2007: Coleman MP, et al. Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 2010.
  3. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU). Cancer Survival Trends in Wales 1985-2004. Cardiff: WCISU; 2010.
  4. Information Services Division Scotland (ISD Scotland). Cancer Statistics. Cancer of the Oesophagus. Accessed September 2011.
  5. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry. Cancer Survival Online Statistics. Oesophagus. Accessed September 2011.
  6. For data for 1996-2003: Rachet B, Maringe C, Nur U, et al. Population-based cancer survival trends in England and Wales up to 2007. Lancet Oncol 2009;10:351-369. Age-standardised figures were provided by the author on request.
  7. Bird-Lieberman EL, Fitzgerald RC. Early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. Age-standardised figures were provided by the author on request. Br J Cancer 2009;101(1):1–6.
  8. National Cancer Intelligence Unit (NCIN). Routes to Diagnosis. London: NCIN; 2010.
  9. Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health; 2011.
  10. For data for 1971-1990: Coleman MP, Babb P, Damiecki P, et al. Cancer Survival Trends in England and Wales, 1971-1995: Deprivation and NHS Region. Series SMPS No 61. London: ONS; 1999.
  11. For data for 1991-1995: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer Survival: England and Wales, 1991-2001, twenty major cancers by age group. London: ONS; 2005.
  12. Cancer Research UK. CancerStats report. Survival – England and Wales. London: Cancer Research UK; 2004.

 

 

Updated: 3 September 2012