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Prognosis of esophageal cancer

In 2014, there were an estimated 45,547 people living with esophageal cancer in the United States. The earlier esophageal cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. 20.0% are diagnosed at the local stage and the 5-year survival for localized esophageal cancer is 41.3%. The number of esophageal cancer deaths is highest among people aged 65-74. Death rates have been falling on average 0.9% each year over 2005-2014 (23).

The prognosis depends on the stage of the tumor and response to treatment. Better results are achieved in Japan compared to the western world. Biological differences or earlier diagnosis may be the reason for this.  Average survival for the entire group is approximately 6 months after the time of diagnosis.

For patients undergoing curative treatment, the 5 year survival in the west is 10-25% compared to 40-60% in Japan. In Japan, there is also significantly better survival for those having lymphadenectomies in the abdomen, thorax, and neck. For radical radiation treatment, 5 year survival is 17%, but it is generally not recommended to administer this treatment modality alone. For patients in the N2 stage, the prognosis is as for metastases. In the western world, there has been a slight improvment with chemotherapy, but this does not correspond with results in Japan.  

Palliative treatment using a combination of internal/external radiation and stents has become significantly better, allowing the patient to obtain nutrition without the need for long hospital stays.

About 20% of the patients operated for cancer in the middle part of the esophagus are alive 3 years after the operation, compared to about 30% of patients operated for cancer in the lower part.  



Five-year relative survival of patients with esophageal cancer, in percent, during the diagnosis period 1974–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway


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