During the past 10 years, postoperative mortality associated with surgical treatment of oesophageal carcinoma has been reduced by one-half. However, it appears that all efforts to improve long-term survival with extensive excisional procedures and adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy have failed. Fifty-six of 100 patients presenting to the surgeon with an oesophageal carcinoma have resectable disease. Recent studies suggest that seven of them will die from postoperative complications and 49 patients will be discharged from the hospital after an average of 3 weeks. Of these patients, 27 will survive the first, 12 the second, and ten the fifth year. Although it may be possible to further reduce postoperative complications and mortality, the chances of improving the long-term prognosis of patients with oesophageal carcinoma seem small.