Survival statistics for esophageal cancer

Survival statistics for esophageal cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for esophageal cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for esophageal cancer is 16%. This means that, on average, about 16% of people diagnosed with esophageal cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of esophageal cancer. It also varies with the location of the tumour in the esophagus.

Generally, the earlier esophageal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Often esophageal cancer is not found until it is at an advanced stage, which can make it more difficult to treat.

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of esophageal cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources. It may include statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada.

Survival statistics for esophageal are not grouped by the TNM stage, but are grouped into 3 larger categories. Separate statistics for adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) aren't available, so the numbers below include both types.

Esophageal cancer survival


5 year relative survival

Localized (cancer is found only in the esophagus)


Regional (cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or tissues)


Distant (cancer has spread to other parts of the body)


Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Esophageal Cancer by Stage. 2017.
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021. Canadian Cancer Society; 2021.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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