Oesophageal Cancer

About the condition

Oesophageal cancer affects the oesophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Oesophageal cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the oesophagus become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the oesophagus and move to other parts of the body.

Oesophageal cancer is the ninth most common type of cancer in the UK, with more than 8,500 new cases diagnosed each year. This disease most commonly affects people over the age of 60 and is more common in men than in women.

The precise causes of oesophageal cancer are unknown, although there are several identified risk factors.


The symptoms of oesophageal cancer usually include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Hoarseness
  • A chronic cough

If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early. Alternatively you can book an appointment with one of our specialists by completing this form online or by calling 020 8247 3351.


If you are referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on tests relevant to your symptoms. As oesophageal cancer doesn’t usually display symptoms until the disease has begun to spread, it is vital that the diagnosis is swift and accurate. Tests for oesophageal cancer include:

  • A gastroscopy, which involves a long, thin tube with a tiny video camera at the end being fed down your throat to examine the affected area.
  • A PET-CT scan, which combines a Computerised Tomography (CT) scan and a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan into one scan to give more detailed information about your cancer. A CT scan takes pictures from all around your body and uses a computer to put them together. A PET scan uses a very small amount of an injected radioactive drug to show where cells are active in the body
  • A biopsy, where cell samples are taken for examination for signs of cancer


At CCL, patients with oesophageal cancer are treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Options for treating oesophageal cancer vary from case to case, based on the general health of the patient and the stage of the cancer. Treatment could include:

  • Surgery, where the affected area is removed
  • Radiotherapy, where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form
  • Biotherapy, which is the use of newer and more targeted therapies to assist the body in fighting the disease

Support Services

At CCL we provide support that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the patient, before, during and after treatment.

We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible. Our support services include counselling, group sessions and much more. Dietitians are also available to help with any swallowing problems and to help maintain body weight.

You can find the full range of our support services here. We’ll be with you every step of the way.

Book now

If you have any questions about cancer or would like to book an appointment with one of our specialists, complete this form online or call 020 8247 3351.


Cancer Centre London

Parkside Hospital

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