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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Oesophageal Cancer

Oesophageal cancer refers to cancer of the oesophagus, which is the hollow, muscular tube (approximately 30 centimetres long) that carries food and drink from the mouth to the stomach. Cancer generally forms inside the lining of the oesophagus where cells in the lining begin to grow and divide abnormally.

The oesophageal cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive care clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about oesphageal cancer, its side effects and your treatment options.

About oesophageal cancer

Oesophageal cancer is considered rare compared with cancers of the breast, lung or prostate. In NSW there are about 400 cases diagnosed annually, of whom around 150 will come to surgery. It develops when cells in the lining of the oesophagus begin to divide and grow abnormally, forming a tumour. Despite oesophageal cancer being rare, the number of people with one of the main types of cancer, called adenocarcinoma, has risen markedly over the past few decades.

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of oesophageal cancer. This type of cancer forms in glandular cells in the lining of the oesophagus that release mucus. It typically develops in the lower part of the oesophagus, closer to the stomach.

Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the flat cells that line the oesophagus. This type of cancer is typically found in the upper and middle parts of the oesophagus.

What are the symptoms of oesophageal cancer?

One of the most common symptoms of oesophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia. Other common oesophageal cancer symptoms may include:

  • Reflux symptoms
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain or burning in the throat or chest
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic hiccups
  • Chronic cough
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent choking while eating food

Many of these symptoms are also associated with other medical conditions, so having any of them does not necessarily mean that you have oesophageal cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

How is oesophageal cancer diagnosed?

Our cancer experts will ensure that before you start any treatment, they clearly understand your disease. They will discuss your medical history and will take a sample of the tumour to look at more thoroughly. They may also look at the tumour with an endoscopic ultrasound, MRI, or CT and PET scans. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting the best cancer care.

At the San, you'll find access to innovative oesphageal cancer treatments and technologies—all under one roof. Our experts use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, including advanced imaging and laboratory tests, to evaluate your cancer.

Then together, we develop a comprehensive cancer treatment plan that works for you. Your tailored plan will include advanced medical treatments and technologies, combined with supportive care services to help reduce side effects and keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment for oesophageal cancer will depend on the stage of your cancer and could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these.

Endoscopic therapy is also available today for pre-cancerous conditions and those still in a very early stage. Treatment options will vary based on the stage of cancer and how localised or advanced the disease is. You may also be eligible for a clinical trial depending on the nature of your cancer.

The San's multidisciplinary team of experts will assist you throughout your cancer experience as well as providing all the latest surgical and medical technology to treat your oesophageal cancer.

Resources and useful oesophageal cancer links
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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services