Advanced oesophageal cancer means that a cancer that began in the food pipe (gullet or oesophagus) has spread to another part of the body.
Unfortunately advanced cancer can’t usually be cured. But treatment might control it, help symptoms, and improve your quality of life for some time.
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
- metastatic cancer
Locally advanced cancer
Locally advanced cancer means that the cancer has spread into the tissues around the oesophagus. It hasn’t spread to other organs in the body. 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. Some people find it helpful to find out more about their cancer and the treatments they 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.