December 1, 2015
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Esophageal Cancer (cont.)

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What is the prognosis with esophageal cancer?

Most often, esophageal cancer is a treatable disease but not a curable one.

Patients who have severe Barrett's esophagus (some consider this stage T0 or precancerous) and those with few cancer cells tend to have relatively successful outcomes.

The overall 5-year survival rate averages between 5% to 30%. This is especially low because patients tend to present late in their disease when the cancer has already spread.

The prognoses for squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are about the same.

Can esophageal cancer be prevented?

Since squamous cell carcinoma is associated with smoking (and smokeless tobacco products), stopping smoking will significantly decrease the risk of this type of esophageal cancer.

Alcohol abuse is also related to squamous cell carcinoma, especially when combined with tobacco product use. Alcohol products should be used in moderation.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is associated with GERD and the development of Barrett's esophagus. It is important to limit the risk factors for developing esophageal reflux. These include:

  • losing weight,
  • moderating alcohol use,
  • avoiding excess anti-inflammatory medication use (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), and
  • avoiding smoking.

If symptoms of GERD develop, they should be assessed and treated by your health care professional. Should symptoms persist or worsen, the recommendation may be to undergo endoscopy to determine whether Barrett's esophagus is present.

Barrett's esophagus needs to be managed and monitored to assess whether there is progression of cell damage. This may include endoscopic ablation, or killing of abnormal tissue using different techniques including radiofrequency ablation, photodynamic therapy, or cryotherapy.


"Cancer Facts and Figures 2015." American Cancer Society.

Steevens, J., et al. "Alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and risk of subtypes of oesophageal and gastric cancer: a prospective cohort study." Gut. 59:1 (2010): 39-48.

Varghese, T. K., et al. "The society of thoracic surgeons guidelines on the diagnosis and staging of patients with esophageal cancer." Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 96:1 (2013): 346-356.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015



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