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Oesophageal cancer

The oesophagus (also referred to as the gullet or gastrointestinal tract), is part of the digestive system, it connects your mouth to your stomach, and its function is to deliver food into the stomach so it can be processed. There is an upper part of the oesophagus called the windpipe (trachea), which connects your mouth and nose to your lungs so you can breathe.

Oesophageal cancer occurs in any part of the oesophagus, and commonly develops within the inner layer of muscle and connective tissue and can spread to the outer layers.

Rutherford Treatment Options

  • Proton Beam Therapy Available
  • Radiotherapy Available
  • Chemotherapy Available
  • Immunotherapy Available

Types of oesophageal cancer

 There are three main types of oesophageal cancer:

Squamous cell
These are cancer cells that develop in the squamous cells that make up the inner lining of your oesophagus. This type of oesophageal cancer is associated with smoking and drinking alcohol. These cancer cells usually develop in the upper and middle part of the oesophagus.

This is the most common of all oesophageal cancers, and they mostly develop in the lower part of the oesophagus within the gland cells. These cells produce mucus in the lining of the oesophagus.

Gastro-oesophageal junction
Cancer cells that develop in the gastroesophageal junction (GOJ), which is in the lowest end of the oesophagus that joins the stomach.


Symptoms caused by oesophageal cancer will vary depending on its type and where in the oesophagus it has occurred. Some people may have symptoms, whereas others may not experience any. Early diagnosis will make treating oesophageal cancer easier, so if you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to see your GP. 

Here are some common symptoms that may be experienced:

  • Heartburn or indigestion that doesn’t go away
  • Difficulty swallowing – feeling that your food is sticking in your throat or chest
  • Food coming back up before reaching the stomach (regurgitation)
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in your throat or the middle of your chest when swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Dull pain or discomfort behind the breastbone or in the back
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you’d like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer
please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Oesophageal cancer diagnosis

If your GP thinks you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of oesophageal cancer, they will arrange for you to have a blood test and may send you to a specialist for further diagnostics scans and tests. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome of treatment will be.

Several tests and examinations can help diagnose oesophageal cancer. Some may be carried out with your GP, and then you may be referred to a hospital or specialist for further scans or tests.

Ways oesophageal cancer can be diagnosed:

  • Blood tests carried out by a GP or at hospital
  • CT Scan
  • PET-CT scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • MRI scan
  • Oesophageal biopsy
  • Oesophageal ultrasound and Endoscopic ultrasound
MRI Diagnosis

Treating oesophageal cancer with proton beam therapy

Treatment for oesophageal cancer will often involve different treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy, conventional radiotherapy and proton beam therapy. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the options will be for treatment.

Chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be given before or after surgery, to make the surgery more effective or to slow down the growth of the cancer and relieve symptoms. It’s difficult to treat the sensitive areas of the oesophagus with conventional radiotherapy, without compromising surrounding areas of the body. Proton beam therapy can be a good option for treating your oesophageal cancer, as it will deliver precise dose of radiation to the tumour or cancerous cells, while delivering minimal radiation to sensitive tissues or organs surrounding the oesophagus.

The benefits of using proton beam therapy treatment for oesophageal cancer

Sensitive areas near the oesophagus that can be avoided when treating with proton beam therapy include:

  • Lungs
  • Stomach
  • Liver
  • Spleen

Using proton beam therapy will aim to shrink a tumour and kill the cancer cells, while minimising damage to the above areas of the body, which may help to reduce associated side effects.

An overview of how proton beam therapy works

Proton beam therapy is highly accurate in targeting a treatment area. It can be used to treat hard-to-reach tumours, while lowering radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs.

Watch the video

Other treatment options for oesophageal cancer

There are other treatment options that can be used to treat oesophageal cancer, either before, after or alongside proton beam therapy. Please see other treatment options available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres below:







Further information & support

Being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on oesophagus treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed to plan your treatment pathway.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00

(Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

Website: www.macmillan.org.uk

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Our Trusted Healthcare Partners