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Oesophageal cancer is often treatable. But it can be difficult to treat.

The treatment you have will depend on:

  • the size and type of oesophageal cancer you have
  • where it is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

It may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

  • explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
  • work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
  • help you manage any side effects, including changes to your diet

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.


If oesophageal cancer is found early and it has not spread, you may be able to have surgery to remove it.

Surgery will remove part or, in a small number of cases, most of the oesophagus. They may also need to remove parts of other organs around the oesophagus, such as the top of the stomach.

Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

You may have chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer:

  • before surgery to help make the cancer smaller
  • after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer and help stop the cancer coming back
  • with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) to treat early cancer, or if you are not able to have surgery
  • to help control and improve the symptoms of advanced cancer


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

You may have radiotherapy for oesophageal cancer:

  • to treat early cancer, usually with chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy)
  • to help control and improve the symptoms of advanced cancer

If you have advanced oesophageal cancer it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.

If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.

Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.

You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.

They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.

The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.


Find out more

Macmillan Cancer Support: end of life care