oesophageal carcinoma

Last edited 07/2023 and last reviewed 08/2023

Oesophageal cancer usually originates in the lining of the oesophagus and can develop in the upper, middle, or lower section of the organ (1).

  • epithelial tumours are responsible for more than 95% of cases oesophageal carcinomas
  • non epithelial cell carcinomas are rare e.g. - metastatic tumour, lymphomas, sarcomas (2)

Epithelial tumour has two main subtypes:

  • oesophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC)
    • is the most common oesophageal cancer subtype - responsible for 87% of all cases of oesophageal cancer in 2012
    • usually affects the upper two thirds of the oesophagus
      • occurs most commonly in the middle third of esophagus
    • males and females are affected equally
  • oesophageal adenocarcinoma
    • more common in the lower third of the oesophagus
    • three to four times as common in men as it is in women (3,4,5)                     

Tumours tend to arise in areas of partial narrowing, i.e. at the pharyngo-oesophageal junction (40%); the junction of the upper and middle third (40%); and where the oesophagus passes through the diaphragm (20%) (6).

Notes (7):

  • there are around 13,000 new cases of oesophago-gastric cancer diagnosed in England each year
    • mortality rates are high, with over 10,000 deaths annually, and over the last 30 years the incidence of these cancers has continued to increase