Esophageal cancer

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Survival statistics for esophageal cancer

Survival statistics for esophageal cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for esophageal cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for esophageal cancer is 15%. This means that, on average, about 15% of people diagnosed with esophageal cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of esophageal cancer. It also varies with the location of the tumour in the esophagus.

  • Generally, the earlier esophageal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
  • Often esophageal cancer is not found until it is at an advanced stage, which can make it more difficult to treat.

Survival statistics for esophageal cancer are grouped into 3 larger categories. Separate statistics for adenocarcinoma tumours and squamous cell carcinoma tumours aren’t available, so the numbers below include both types.

Survival by stage of esophageal cancer is reported as 5-year relative survival. Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of esophageal cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources. It may include statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada.

Esophageal cancer survival

Stage5 year relative survival

Localized (cancer is found only in the esophagus)


Regional (cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or tissues)


Distant (cancer has spread to other parts of the body)


Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.


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