What you need to know

Treatment of oesophageal cancer can involve complex surgery.

It is recommended that you:

  • See a specialist who is a member of a multidisciplinary team. You can ask your GP to refer you.
  • Have your surgery at a recommended hospital.

What is cancer of the oesophagus?

The oesophagus is the tube that takes food and drink from the mouth to the stomach. Oesophageal cancer starts when cells in the oesophagus become abnormal. These cells divide and grow to form a cancer.


Who do I see for diagnosis and treatment?

If your GP suspects you have oesophageal cancer, they will refer you to a specialist.

The specialist should:

  • have experience treating oesophageal cancer
  • be an active member of a multidisciplinary team

All the specialists on Canrefer are members of multidisciplinary teams.

Why are multidisciplinary teams important?

A multidisciplinary team is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Team members meet regularly to discuss their patients. They plan treatment for new cancer patients and review treatment for existing patients.

Multidisciplinary teams are important. Team members work together to decide the best treatments for patients.

You can ask your GP to refer you to a specialist who is part of a multidisciplinary team. Talk to your GP about this.

All specialists listed on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

What tests do I need?

You may have some of the tests listed below to diagnose oesophageal cancer. The most common tests are:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Imaging - ultrasound, CT scan and/or PET scan
  • Laparoscopy

What treatment will I have?

Treatment for oesophageal cancer may include one or all types of these cancer treatments:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy

Oesophageal cancer surgery is very complex. It requires a special team of health care professionals with a lot of experience doing this type of surgery.

Where will I have treatment?

If you need surgery for oesophageal cancer you should have this at one of the hospitals on the list below. These hospitals do regular oesophageal cancer surgery.

Research shows that it is better to have complex surgery at hospitals that do a lot of this type of surgery. Patients have fewer complications, less risk of early death, and better overall survival.

You may need to travel to have surgery at a recommended hospital. Your Local Health District will have an arrangement in place for this.

You may be able to have parts of your treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, closer to home. Please discuss this further with your treating specialist.

Travel assistance for rural patients

If you live in a rural area and need help to travel for your treatment visit NSW Government IPTAAS for more information.

How common is oesophageal cancer in NSW?

Oesophageal cancer was diagnosed in:

  • 439
    People in NSW in 2012
  • 486
    People in NSW in 2011
  • 448
    People in NSW in 2010

Data Source: Annual NSW cancer incidence and mortality dataset, 2012 (sourced from the NSW Cancer Registry)

Recommended hospitals

See which hospitals are recommended for oesophageal cancer surgery. 

Cancer information and support

Speak to a specialist health professional about anything to do with cancer.

Phone 13 11 20.

Cancer Council NSW
Questions for your specialist

Find out some key questions to ask your specialist at your first appointment.

Questions you can ask
Booklet about oesophageal cancer

Understanding Stomach and Oesophageal Cancers is a booklet for people with cancer, their families and friends. 

Cancer Council NSW