What Affects Esophageal Cancer Survival Rates?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2018
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Esophageal cancer survival rates depend on the location of the cancer and some other factors like age and general health, but generally, a patient diagnosed with esophageal cancer has an average 17% five year survival rate. This may be much higher for small, localized cancers, and much lower for cancers with distant metastases. Patients with an esophageal cancer diagnosis should talk to their doctors about the prognosis with various treatment options.

Statistics on esophageal cancer survival rates are provided in the form of a five year survival rate, reflecting the number of patients likely to be alive five years after diagnosis. These rates provide good overall information, but it is important to be aware that individual cases can vary considerably. Some patients have an excellent chance of survival, while others may have a more bleak outlook.

For patients with small, localized cancers isolated to the mucosa of the esophagus, esophageal cancer survival rates can be as high as 80%. As the cancer starts to invade the walls of this structure, the chances of survival go down. Involvement of the muscles surrounding the esophagus brings the survival rate down to around 20%, and if the cancer spreads to neighboring tissues and lymph nodes, the survival rate may be as low as seven percent. In a patient with advanced cancer and distant metastases, the esophageal cancer survival rates drop to three percent.


The type of cancerous cells involved can make a difference as well. Adenocarcinomas arising from glandular tissue are very aggressive and can bring the chances of surviving down, for example. Older patients tend to have lower esophageal cancer survival rates because they may have comorbidities that complicate treatment. Patients who drink and smoke may have worse outcomes as well, as will patients with generally poor health.

One problem with esophageal cancer is the tendency for a late diagnosis. The patient may endure pain and throat irritation for a long time before going to the doctor, and the doctor will need to run a series of tests to find esophageal cancer. Especially if the patient is young or has no obvious risk factors, the doctor may not immediately consider cancer as a possible cause of the symptoms, and this could result in a delayed diagnosis. Esophageal cancer survival rates can also depend on where the patient receives treatment, as some facilities are very aggressive and have excellent outcomes, while others may use less effective treatment protocols.



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