How Long Do You Live After Being Diagnosed With Esophageal Cancer?

Reviewed on 9/14/2021

Five-year survival rate by stage

Cancer research has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few years.
The five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer means the percentage of people that lived for at least five years after their diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

Cancer research has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Cancer, even an advanced stage, does not mean a death stage anymore. Survival in esophageal cancer depends on your overall health, symptoms, and stage at the age of diagnosis and existing comorbidities.

Survival rates for any disease are calculated in terms of how many people survived for at least five years after the disease diagnosis. These data are derived from a study that observed a particular set of people for five years after their diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer means the percentage of people that lived for at least five years after their diagnosis of esophageal cancer. Survival rates can’t exactly tell you how long you will live, but these may help give you an idea of how successful your cancer treatment will be.

Survival rates differ depending on at what stage your cancer has been diagnosed. These stages have been defined by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

5 Year Survival Rate by Stage
SEER Stage* Five-year Survival Rate (in percentage)
All SEER stages combined 20
Localized 47
Regional 25
Distant 5

*SEER Stage: Stage of cancer as determined by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI); Localized: Cancer that is present in the esophagus only, that is, there are no signs that cancer has spread outside the esophagus; Regional: Cancer that has spread to the adjacent structures or lymph nodes; Distant: Cancer that has spread to the distant organs.

The five-year survival rate (as shown in Table 1) for localized esophageal cancer is 47 percent. This means 47 out of 100 people who were diagnosed with localized esophageal cancer could live for at least five years. It also means that people with esophageal cancer are 47 percent as likely as people without esophageal cancer to live five years or more. Similarly, 20 out of every 100 people diagnosed with esophageal cancer of any stage could live for at least five years.

Survival rates for cancer are often used as predictors of how long people can live beyond a certain number of years (5 or 10 years) after their diagnosis. However, these are only estimates and may vary for you depending on

  • age
  • overall health
  • response of your body to treatments

Survival rates do not apply later on if cancer spreads or returns after treatment. Discuss with your doctor about all these factors to know about your life expectancy.

Remember, survival rates have been calculated at a particular point in time. Therefore, it may be possible that advances in treatments in the later years might have improved the survival rates. Hence, you must always ask your doctor even after you know the general survival rates.

How is esophageal cancer treated?

Doctors will consider few factors before planning on any therapy for esophageal cancer. These factors include

  • The type of cells in cancer
  • age
  • overall health
  • personal preferences

Treatments include

  • Surgery (to remove the tumor or cut the unhealthy esophagus with or without the upper part of the stomach)
  • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs to shrink the tumor)
  • Radiation therapy (focusing high-beam energy on the tumor to destroy the cancer cells)
  • Targeted therapy (using medications that target processes responsible for cancer)
  • Immunotherapy (using medications that involve your immune system to fight cancer)

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References
Survival Rates for Esophageal Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/esophagus-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

Esophageal Cancer. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/277930-overview

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