From 1975 through 1988,257 patients with carcinoma of the thoracic oesophagus have been treated in our department. Operability was 90% (232/257), overall resectability 77% (198/257) and for the operated group 85% (198/232). Hospital mortality was 9,6% but decreased to 3% over the period 1986-1988. There were 65% squamous cell epitheliomas and 35% adenocarcinomas. pTNM staging was as follows: Stage I: 11.6%; Stage II: 23.2%; Stage III: 37.9%; Stage IV. 27.3%. Overall survival was 62.5% after one year, 42.4% after 2 years and 30% after 5 years. According to the pTNM staging 5-year survival was 90% for stage I, 56% for stage II, 15.3% for stage III. There was no 5-year survival for patients with stage IV carcinoma. There were no statistically significant differences according to tumour localisation, pathologic type, sex and age. Introducing extensive resection and extended lymphadenectomy seems to improve significantly survival in patients in whom an operation with curative intention was performed. The 1-year survival was 90.8 versus 72%, 2-year survival was 81 versus 46% and 5-year survival was 48.5 versus 41% for respectively radical and non-radical resections. Radical surgery in stage IV carcinoma substantially prolonged median survival from 6 months to 1 year. From this study it can be concluded that in experienced hands, surgery today offers the best chances for optimal staging, potential cure and prolonged high-quality palliation.