Surgery for oesophageal cancer

If the oesophageal cancer is at an early stage, you may have surgery with the aim of curing the cancer.

About surgery for oesophageal cancer

If you have an early-stage oesophageal cancer that has not spread, you may be offered surgery to remove the cancer.

Types of surgery for oesophageal cancer


The main operation used to treat oesophageal cancer is called an oesophagectomy. In this operation, the part of the oesophagus containing the cancer is removed. The part that is removed depends on the size and position of the cancer inside the oesophagus.

You may need to stay in hospital for a few weeks for an oesophagectomy.

Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR)

An EMR can be used to treat very early-stage oesophageal cancers that are just in the inner lining of the oesophagus (the mucosa).

The doctor passes an endoscope through the mouth and into the oesophagus, so they can see the cancer. They then inject a small amount of fluid into the layer of cells below the cancer. The fluid lifts the cancer up from the muscle layer in the oesophagus. This makes it easier to remove the cancer. The doctor does this using suction and a small wire loop called a snare.

The most common side effects of an EMR are bleeding and narrowing of the oesophagus. There is a very small risk of a tear (perforation) in the wall of the oesophagus.

Further treatment

Your cancer doctor may recommend further treatment after an EMR. This is to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. For example, they may suggest you have a treatment called radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

Your cancer doctor will talk with you about the operation you are going to have. It is important to discuss the operation with them before it happens. It may help to make a list of questions you want to ask.

Recovering after your operation

Outpatient appointment

Before you leave hospital, you will be given an appointment for your check-up at an outpatient clinic. The appointment is a good time to talk about any problems you have after your operation. If you have any problems before this appointment, you can contact your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or ward nurse for advice.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 31 December 2019
Next review: 30 June 2022

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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