Types of oesophageal cancer

Knowing which type of oesophageal cancer you have helps your doctor to plan your treatment.

There are two main types of oesophageal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the thin, flat cells of the mucosa, which lines the oesophagus
  • Adenocarcinoma develops from glandular cells and is often linked with Barrett’s oesophagus.

A cancer can develop anywhere along the length of the oesophagus. Cancers in the upper oesophagus are usually squamous cell cancers. Most cancers in the middle of the oesophagus are also squamous cell cancers. Most cancers in the lower oesophagus are adenocarcinomas. This includes those in the junction where the oesophagus joins the stomach.

Over 95 in 100 (95%) oesophageal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas. There are other, rarer types of oesophageal cancer. These include:

The tests and treatments for these rarer types of cancer are different from the ones we describe in this section. Our cancer information specialists can give you more information. You can call them for free on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Understanding oesophageal cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The oesophagus

The oesophagus (gullet) is part of the digestive system. It connects the mouth to the stomach.