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About advanced cancer

Find out about advanced oesophageal cancer and how it might affect you.

Advanced oesophageal cancer means that a cancer that began in the food pipe (gullet) has spread to another part of the body.


Unfortunately advanced cancer can’t usually be cured. But treatment can control it, relieve symptoms, and give you a good quality of life for a while.

Sometimes cancer is advanced when it is first diagnosed. Or the cancer has come back and spread after treatment for the original cancer.

Cancers that have spread to another part of the body are called:

  • secondary cancer
  • metastases
  • metastatic cancer

Locally advanced oesophageal cancer

Locally advanced cancer means that the cancer has spread into the tissues around the oesophagus. It hasn’t spread to other organs. This is different to an advanced cancer.  

Locally advanced cancers are either stage 2 or stage 3.

How you might feel

Finding out that you can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal to not be able to think about anything else.

Lots of information and support is available to you, your family and friends. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the treatments you might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.

    Talk to your doctor or nurse to understand:

    • what your diagnosis means
    • what is likely to happen
    • what treatment is available
    • how treatment can help you


    Many people want to know what the outlook is and how their cancer will develop. This is different for each person. Your doctor is the best person to discuss this with you because they have all the information about your cancer.

    You can also talk to your specialist nurse. Or you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.


    The most common symptoms are:

    • feeling very tired
    • feeling generally unwell
    • problems swallowing
    • weight loss

    Some people have pain but painkillers can usually control this well.


    You might have tests to find out exactly where the cancer has spread to.


    Treatment aims to control the cancer for a time and reduce symptoms. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy may shrink the cancer or stop it growing.

    Some treatments can help you to swallow more easily if the cancer is partly blocking your food pipe.  

    Last reviewed: 
    05 May 2016
    • Guidelines for the management of oesophageal and gastric cancer. British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), 2011.

    • Management of oesophageal and gastric cancer. A national clinical guideline. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 2006.

    • Oesophageal cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. Stahl M, Mariette C, Haustermans K and others. Annals of Oncology. 2013. 24 (supplement 6) vi51-vi56.

    • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

    Information and help

    Dangoor sponsorship

    About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.