’An Overview of Oesophagael Cancer -symptoms, treatment and therapies

’An Overview of Oesophagael Cancer -symptoms, treatment and therapies

This oesophageal cancer (esophageal cancer) overview and associated articles will hopefully give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating oesophagael cancer - the symptoms, causes, and all the latest options on treatments and therapies - from cancer drugs and chemotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy and complementary therapies; including alternative and new therapies and information.  

This article has been compiled by Chris Woollams former Oxford University Biochemist and founder of CANCERactive, from worldwide research and expert sources.*

Read the whole article below or just select the part(s) that you are interested in from the list below and click onto that page. 



A decade ago, I was speaking at a big conference on the West Coast of the USA, to about 3,500 people. At the lunch break a Professor came up to me and asked, "Can you help me? I get terrible acid reflux. And I dont know what to do - the antacids seem no help at all." (!)

My reply was simple: "You are tackling the symptoms not the real problem. Youve almost certainly got Campylobacter and/or Helicobacter Pylori,  a parasitic bacterium in your stomach. We all have them in us, but in some people they grow to excess. H pylori is known cause of acid reflux (often called heartburn). When theres acid in the stomach, it dives for cover into the mucous lining of the stomach wall and is a massive irritant. 

The mouth and the stomach are important factors. So avoid protein and alcohol late evening, avoid alcohol-based mouthwash, and dont solve your heartburn with all purpose antacids; youll just be helping the problem. 

Take Goldenseal and Bismuth (PeptoBismol, or GastroBismol, will do) for H/pylori; and/or try some Para-Free Plus for two months with Wormwood for both Campylobacter and H pylori.  

Three months later I received an e-mail: "Youre a star - acid reflux all gone".

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Oesophagael Cancer causes and symptoms

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Oesophagael cancer or (esophageal cancer for our American friends) is growing rapidly in the UK and is very dangerous. There are definitely commonalities with Stomach cancer (Gastro-intestinal, or gastric cancer) and you should take a look at those pages as well.

The oesophagus is also called the Gullet and is about 12 inches long. 

The main type of oesophagael cancer in the Western world is called an adenocarcinoma. A precursor to this may be Barretts oesophagus which is the formation of abnormal cells at the lower end of the oesophagus.  These abnormal cells are caused by splash back or acid reflux or GERD, where the liquid mixture of foods and enzymes and acid splash up from the stomach. About 1 per cent of UK adults have Barretts. And about 1 in 100 cases of Barretts may eventually become oesophagael cancer.  But the widely held view in the UK on other cancer websites is that the main cause of this cancer is acid reflux.  Readers should be clear - acid reflux is not a cause but a symptom of something deeper seated; and often a factor you can do something about. 

In the Eastern world the esophageal cancer is more likely to be squamous cell carcinoma.

Oesophagael cancer is more prevalent in older men, especially those who smoke and drink (spirits mainly). There seems to be no hereditary link. 

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Oesophageal cancer symptoms

You may experience the following early warning symptoms:

  • Acid Reflux

  • Bloating after eating

  • Indigestion or stomach discomfort.

  • Feeling slightly sick

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Heartburn.

As the disease progresses, so do the signs:

  •  Stomach pain.

  •  Trouble swallowing

  •  Actually being sick

  •  Weight loss for no known reason.

  •  Blood in stools

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Integrative treatments for Oesophageal cancer

Fret not there is so much you can do mostly to help yourself. When my daughter developed her brain tumour and was given just 6 months to live we found out so many things that could help but it took at least 6 months hard work and a pair of science degrees. The aim of this site is to short-circuit all this for you and to empower you by passing on all our knowledge, our research findings, the expert studies and the possible causes so that others can benefit immediately. This is also why, when the  doctors asked me, I gladly wrote Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer

The book has been a best seller in the UK for more than a decade  Click here to buy

Now, lets first try to understand what is going on, and what factors might be maintaining this cancer, helping it progress in your body.

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Possible Contributory factors to esophageal cancer 

Smoking seems to increase the risk of oesophageal cancer, (it inhibits helpful bacteria), as does the statistic of being male and being older.

Hereditary factors make some people more likely to develop polyps in their stomach.

Certain health disorders like pernicious anaemia, gastritis and other irritable stomach problems are often blamed, as is Barretts oesophagus, a condition where abnormal, non-cancerous cells develop on the joining area between stomach and oesophagus. Eventually these can become cancerous.

The real issue is what causes these inflammations and irritations in the first place? What makes these problems more acute? What irritates the situation further, or are they enough on their own to turn into cancer?

Taking drugs long term can be devastating: We dealt with a lady patient at CANCERactive who had been prescribed the drug Diclofenac sodium (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for over ten years, when the directive for the drug clearly states it should not be prescribed for more than 6 months.  Why did the doctor not stop to think what might have been causing the inflammation in the stomach (and the acid reflux) in the first place???

Proton Pump Inhibiotors can have a devastating effect on the stomach. Designed to reduce acid reflux, but often given with chemotherapy to avoid the patient being sick, PPIs have been shown to double the risk of stomach cancer if taken occasionally, produce a 5-fold increase if taken for a year, and an 8-fold increase if taken for 3 years. Clearly this research was for stomach cancer; the study has not been extended to oesophageal cancer or throat cancer yet.

Go to: PPIs, acid reflux pills, cause stomach cancer 

Environmental toxins may be another cause. Reports (for example, from the European Cancer Centre, IARC, in Lyon) talk about nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines being causal. One report stated: Scientists from 19 countries, at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon (IARC) have concluded that high nitrite levels (especially in conjunction with low vitamin C levels) are linked to carcinogenicity.  Links with stomach cancer, oesophageal cancer and brain tumours were especially noted. The working group were especially concerned with the run-off of fertilisers into surface and well water.  Nitrites and nitrates may have a direct cancer effect or promote the by-products of cyanobacteria in the soil and water.  By-products such as microcystins and nodularins are cyclic peptides and are toxins produced when the bacteria die.  These toxins accumulate in fish and shellfish, for example.  Significant evidence also linking these toxins to liver cancer was found.

Bacterial Infection - In Cancer Watch pages over the last 15 years we have covered a number of worldwide research studies on possible causes/contributory factors:

1)  Your body holds a finely balanced group of bacteria. Roughly 800 different species are known to live inside your body, each having up to 30 different strains; about 400 species have been identified and named so far. Research is coming thick and fast on the microbiome. 

Bacteria from your mouth and from your stomach but not necessarily from your gut have been linked to this cancer.

  • For example, a healthy oesophagus seems to contain high levels of the species Firmicutes and Streptococcus viridans. And the oesophageal microbiome doesnt seem to interchange with those of the gut. 

    However, NYU Langone Healths Perlmutter Cancer Center has shown there are at least three types of bacteria in the mouth that are linked with a higher or lower risk of oesophageal cancer.

    Go to: Mouth bacteria link to oesophageal cancer

  • In one study by Sawada et al(1), E coli was found in much higher numbers in adenocarcinoma. E coli has also been found in Chrons and colorectal cancer, and even in breast cancer tissue. You can read more about gut bacteria in several articles on this website.

  • And we have a book to help you. Go to: Heal your gut - Heal your Body

  • Of the 6-14% of patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, who subsequently develop Barretts oesophagus, about 0.5 - 1% will develop adenocarcinoma. Campylobacter are found in greater numbers in GERD.

2)  In one study, by Blackett et al(2), Campylobacter were found in much greater numbers in patients with GERD and Barretts. And cytokines associated with carcinogenesis were much more prevalent. Campylobacter can be treated by the Chinese herb artemisinin or sweet wormwood.

Antibiotics and drugs like Ramipril can also change levels of Firmicutes in the body.

For more than a decade it has been known that Helicobacter Pylori in the stomach contributes to stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.  Acid levels and lactobacillus acidophilus can keep Helicobacter pylori, in check. And it maybe the effects of Helicobacter pylori extend to GERD, and/or that Campylobacter follows much the same cancer pathway.

There have been research reports saying that people with stomach cancer have low vitamin B-12 levels, or low folic acid levels and well they might: A lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut will reduce production levels of certain B vitamins

Nitrites and nitrates identified above from pesticides may cause problems but they are also present in dried and smoked meats and fish, including sausages and pates and these have been linked many times to stomach problems, irritations and stomach cancer. And so have nitrosamines commonly formed by burning meat on the barbeque, they are now even found in personal toiletry products. But - Commensal or beneficial gut bacteria have been shown in clinical trials to neutralise these toxic chemicals for you in the gut.

3)  Too much salt in the diet (the Japanese have linked a doubling of intake with a doubling of risk of stomach problems) and the consumption of large amounts of pickled products (again Japanese research well they do have high levels of stomach cancer!) are also linked. But salt and vinegar will greatly alter the stomach and intestinal pH levels, and this will favour some bacteria, whilst reducing others. Diet is thus crucial.

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Oesophageal cancer and irritation

Irritation and inflammation in the stomach may well cause GERD or acid reflux.  

With this may come changes to the microbiome of the oesophagus in adenocarcinoma. Such changes are less marked in squamous cell, where a different bacterium seems to play a part. Namely, Fusobacterium nucleatum. This bacterium is primarily an inhabitant of the mouth (where it causes peridontal disease), but the SYNCAN study found its presence in colorectal cancer. One study showed Fusobacterium nucleatum in 23% of cancer tissue after removal; the presence was linked with a shorter survival time. 

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Reducing the bacterial threat in oesophageal cancer

Before scalpels are drawn, there are definitely things you might try:

Scanning a hand1)  A VEGA check will inexpensively tell you whether E coli, Campylobacter, Helicobacter Pylori or any other foreigner/unwanted irritant is present. Your Doctor can also do a stool test but he has to tell the lab technicians exactly what to look for. There are other parasites that can infect the stomach and bowels. (e.g. Shegela from South East Asia and increasingly available with exotic and imported foods. No holiday to foreign parts necessary!)  A VEGA check will tell you if anything is unusual, and even what food allergies you may have.

2)  If anything abnormal is detected your doctor will have the necessary cocktails of drugs. Those preferring to treat themselves should consider the following Package:


  • Sip Aloe Vera  first thing in the morning and last thing at night it contains about half a dozen anti-inflammatories to help calm things down

  • Try Goldenseal - best to get a Naturopath to prescribe it. Bismuth is also useful you might try the proprietary Gastrobismol.

  • Take Garlic  supplement, first thing in the morning and last thing at night with cold water. Chop fresh garlic on your salads


  • Supplement with a multi-strain probiotic For example, Probio8 Max, our practitioner strength, specifically designed, probiotic.  

  • For added Insurance, you might consider a two month course of Para-Free Plus, and Wormwood. The herbs oregano and Pau Darco plus Caprylic Acid (coconut) can also kill yeasts and microbes.

  • Eating a Rainbow diet is essential as it contains a number of foods (like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which work against microbes.

  • Go to our best selling book: The Rainbow Diet

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Oesophageal cancer diagnosis

Professor Gareth Williams and Dr Kai Stoeber of UCLs Wolfsen Institute have developed a test using fluid samples from the oesophagus and is 85 per cent accurate for the specific diagnosis of Oesophagael cancer. This is much needed as at the moment the testing is for general signs of non-specific cancer, and the cancer is rarely caught at an early stage resulting in only 8 per cent 5-year survival figures. When diagnosis catches the cancer early, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used, claims of 80 per cent 5-year survival are made.

The usual diagnosis is made in one of three ways:

Barium meal more a swallow than a meal. This white, chalky liquid is swallowed and X-rays taken to track the trouble spots

Endoscopy where a tube with a light and a camera on the end is passed down the throat. A local anaesthetic will be used more uncomfortable than painful. The cameras image shows up on a TV monitor. A few sample cells may be taken at the same time for analysis under a microscope this is called a biopsy.

liver2A CT scan - You lie on your back and go into a chamber. The scan takes about 10 minutes and involves multi-dimensional X-rays giving a 3D picture to pin point tumours and to obtain a bigger picture about possible spread to nearby tissues. You may be given an injection probably containing iodine to better show up the hot spots in your stomach. If so the doctor must discuss your possible allergy to iodine.

The Doctors will then tell you whether it is Upper, Middle or Lower oesophagael cancer, to describe location

They will tell you the Stage or how far it has progressed. Stage 1 is no spread whereas Stage 4 means there is spread beyond the oesophagus to other organs.

And they will tell you the Grade or how aggressive it is. Grade 1 is a slow growing cancer, while Grade 4 is the fastest.

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Oesophageal cancer treatment

Cancers are very individual, and so is the treatment programme. It may depend upon the location of the tumour, its spread and your health amongst other factors.

 1. SurgerySurgery: This is the most common treatment. Cuts may be made in the abdomen, chest and/or neck. It is important to be clear just how much tissue is to be removed and what the implications are afterwards: for example, for swallowing and eating. Quite frequently the upper part of the stomach may be removed too, plus the adjacent lymph nodes. Surgery cannot always be used due to size and location of the tumour or to your personal health. Sometimes the tumour grows around nerves, which can be both painful and surgery limiting. However, it is the most common treatment for this cancer.  

In an Ivor Lewis esphagectomy, two incisions are made, one in the stomach, the other in the chest wall. The tumour, lymph nodes, lower oesophagus and upper stomach may be removed, and the remaining parts re-joined. 

A list of questions to use as a basic guide is contained in Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer.

Three forms of surgery are used:

An oesophagectomy: for early stage cancers - where the affected parts and the nearby lymph nodes are removed, and the remaining oesophagus is reconnected to the stomach so you can still swallow.

An oesophagogastrectomy: where there is a need to remove part of the stomach too, along with nearby lymph nodes. The remaining oesophagus is reattached to the remaining stomach so food can continue to pass from the throat to the stomach. Sometimes a piece of your own colon is used to connect the oesophagus to the stomach.

Laser Surgery: is used in the USA to attack blockages. Using a version of the Endoscope along with a laser beam, portions of a tumour causing a blockage can be removed, avoiding the need for external cuts.

2. Radiotherapy: This may be external radiotherapy, where treatment is given every weekday for between 3 and 6 weeks. You should read our articles on Radiotherapy  especially a quick guide on how to maximize the effectiveness.

Sometimes internal radiotherapy is used where radioactive materials (put in place by an endoscope or a similar tube) rest in the tumour area. The side effects are the usual ones for radiotherapy including nausea, lowered blood cell count, and possible hair loss. Radiotherapy is usually used where the surgeon is uncertain that he cleared away all the cancer cells.

3. Chemotherapy: This may be used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour and make it more manageable.


More usually it is given after surgery
a) To kill off all remaining cancer cells to try to prevent return of the cancer
b) To treat any spread of the cancer to other tissues

Capecitabine, cisplatin and fluorouracil are the most favoured drugs and often used in combination. However, according to the Lancet Oncology Vol 7, July 2006, in a randomised trial with 1002 patients, results showed that capecitabine could replace fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin could replace cisplatin. In the US Sloan Kettering is studying paclitaxel, in particular, which is showing promising results when used alone or in combination with cisplatin. Some tumours already show signs of developing resistance to paclitaxel.

For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here. You can also look into a diet to maximize the chemotherapy  on this web site. However you must ask your doctor and a Nutritionist specifically about Diet as some conditions and treatments demand a liquid only diet. 

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Oesophageal cancer and treatment alternatives

Where the cancer is in an advanced state, and/or after treatments you may have side effects, pain, difficulty in swallowing, nausea and fatigue. You must ask for help. The Doctors will have drugs for most if not all of these conditions.

PDTPhotodynamic Therapy: was originally used mostly for palliative care reducing the symptoms of both the orthodox treatments and the cancer in later stages. It then moved on to being used with Barretts and to shrink some blockages. Now several US centers are looking at its use as a basic treatment. It has few side effects and originally involved a chemical agent, which finds its way to the cancer. Then light of a certain frequency is shone on that agent to produce an oxygen free-radical which kills the cancer cell. For many years this treatment was hampered by the need for the tumour to be near the body surface in order to deliver the light. Recently there have been huge advances in the agents (many are now natural), lasers and delivery mechanisms, making the treatment increasingly effective for many cancers. Go to: Photodynamic Therapy or PDT

Treatment for anaemia: Managing and counteracting anaemia can reduce death from anaemia by 50 per cent. Research published by the Cochrane Collaboration showed that epoetins (alfa and beta epoetin) show significant survival benefits. Particularly striking were the results for patients with solid tumours (Breast, lung, colon, ovarian) where risk of death decreased by 51 per cent) In a second study (European Soc. For Medical Oncology- 31st Oct 2005) epotin beta was shown to reduce risk of tumour progression in patients with anaemia 

Treatment for fatigue: icon has run several pieces on fatigue. A qualified naturopath will be able to suggest dietary changes to boost energy levels. Qualified homeopaths may be able to suggest ways to counter fatigue. Energy therapists (e.g. acupuncture, cranial osteopaths, Reiki Masters) may well be able to help. Italian research showed a lack of acetyl-carnitine which supplementation could correct. UCLA scientist report that a series of genetic markers become blocked either due to the cancer or due to the chemotherapy treatment. The California team note promising results with Etanercept. Apparently 30 per cent of women who have had chemo for breast cancer have long-term fatigue, even after the cancer has gone. This may well be true for other cancers.
The British Journal of Cancer 2006; 94 1568-71 reported on research from the Glasgow Royal infirmary. Apparently patients with higher levels of CRP protein pre-surgery have poorer survival outcomes. Donald Macmillan says it is indicative of higher levels of inflammation and an impaired T-lymphocyte response. The research implied that patients with high CRP levels should not undergo surgery.

Memorial Sloan Kettering was working on a new class of drugs that offered another promising avenue of investigation: Tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (such as SU5416 and OSI-774) are drugs involving small biologic molecules that directly attack tumour cells at the molecular level.

Complementary therapies for oesophageal cancer; Alternative therapies for oesophageal cancer 


CANCERactive is Europes Number 1 Integrative Cancer Charity. This website alone has more than 4,000 pages of information on it, either as articles or as news stories. More than 10,000 people visit our websites every day. We know from the feed-back we receive just how much we are valued by people trying to beat cancer. 
We believe you can increase your personal odds of cancer survival by taking simple health-enhancing steps and adding both complementary cancer therapies and alternative cancer therapies into your mix of treatments. 
For example, Hyperbaric Oxygen, curcumin, calorie restriction, melatonin, probiotics and whole body hyperthermia have all been shown in research to make chemotherapy work better. It then kills more cells! The research is covered on this website. Surely it makes a lot of sense to use them in your personal cancer treatment programme?


Go to: How to improve your chemotherapy
We cover how to improve your radiotherapy (and reduce side-effects) too. 
Go to: Improve your Radiotherapy, and reduce side-effects
We have a complete review of Immunotherapy telling you the accurate figures and what to watch out for. We tell you what is working and when two new drugs have been used, rather than one. Its a new, emerging and alternative cancer therapy, but not fully there yet!

Go to: A complete review of Immunotherapy  

Then we have an article on how to improve the success of your radiotherapy (and reduce the potential side-effects) – all by adding complementary therapies. Our Guidelines on Diet and Exercise can be found through this link:

Go to: CANCERactive Guidelines on Diet and exercise 

Our recommended anti-cancer diet is the colourful Mediterranean Diet (with its focus on the French paradox):  

Go to: The Rainbow Diet

Like Hippocrates, we believe all cancer begins in the gut and that gut problems, yeast, viral and parasite infections are common constituents of cancer.

Go to: All cancer begins in the gut

But if you just want to look at the most comprehensive list of Complementary Therapies you can find it here:

Go to: CANCERactive Complementary and Integrative cancer therapies

And if you want alternative cancer therapies start here:

Go to: CANCERactive Alternative cancer therapies 

Finally, if you want all this put together for you in one simple plan, why not look into having a Personal Prescription?

Go to: Personal Prescriptions with Chris Woollams

We don’t take one penny from any Pharmaceutical company, cancer clinic or supplements company. We have no vested interest. We just want to see you beat cancer. 

"If you are already thinking of supplementing with any of the above products, why not take a look at Our Natural Selection by clicking here."


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Refs: 1. Sawada AFujiwara YNagami Y, et al. Alteration of esophageal microbiome by antibiotic treatment does not affect incidence of rat esophageal adenocarcinomaDig Dis Sci2016;61:31618.
 2. Blackett KLSiddhi SSCleary S, et al. Oesophageal bacterial biofilm changes in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, Barretts and oesophageal carcinoma: association or causality?Aliment Pharmacol Ther2013;37:108492.
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 *Cancer (and its related illnesses) are very serious and very individual diseases.  Readers must always consult directly with experts and specialists in the appropriate medical field before taking, or refraining from taking, any specific action.
This web site is intended to provide research-based information on cancer and its possible causes and therapies, so that you can make more informed decisions in consultation with those experts. Although our information comes from expert sources, and is most usually provided by Professors, scientists and Doctors, our easy-to-understand, jargon-free approach necessitates that journalists, not doctors, write the copy. For this reason, whilst the authors, management and staff of CANCERactive,
icon, and Health Issues have made every effort to ensure its accuracy, we assume no responsibility for any error, any omission or any consequences of an error or omission. Readers must consult directly with their personal specialists and advisors, and we cannot be held responsible for any action, or inaction, taken by readers as a result of information contained on this web site, or in any of our publications.  Any action taken or refrained from by a reader is taken entirely at the readers own instigation and, thus, own risk.


The CANCERactive Difference:   Intelligent Information. Independent Voice.


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