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Oesophageal Cancer

Oesophageal cancer is a malignant (cancer) tumour that grows in the lining of the oesophagus.

The oesophagus is the hollow tube that moves food and liquid from the mouth down into the stomach using a series of muscular movements. The wall of the oesophagus is made up of several layers of tissue, including mucous membrane, muscle, and connective tissue. Oesophageal cancer starts at the inside lining of the oesophagus and spreads outward through the other layers as it grows.

There are two most common forms of oesophageal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma forms in the squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the oesophagus. This cancer is most often found in the upper and middle part of the oesophagus, but can occur anywhere along the oesophagus.
  • Adenocarcinoma begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Adenocarcinomas usually form in the lower part of the oesophagus, near the stomach.


The most common signs of oesophageal cancer are painful or difficult swallowing and weight loss. Other symptoms may include:

  • hoarseness and cough
  • pain behind the breast bone
  • indigestion and heartburn