Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer often develops slowly and may be growing for years before a patient notices any symptoms. Once symptoms emerge – like difficulty and pain when swallowing – the cancer tends to quickly progress. Detecting and diagnosing esophageal cancer as early as possible increases the chances of successful treatment.

Because esophageal cancer is often not detected until it is in advanced, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any worrying symptoms. 

There are several types of tests to diagnose esophageal cancer, including:

  • Imaging tests like barium swallow test, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Endoscopy tests that use a flexible tube to look inside the body. There are several kinds of endoscopy that may be used to diagnose esophageal cancer, like upper endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, bronchoscopy, thoracoscopy and laparoscopy.
  • Biopsy of a small amount of tissue collected during an endoscopy procedure to see if cancer is present

Staging Esophageal Cancer

Staging is done to determine the size and location of the tumor and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other places in the body. Staging is necessary to plan the appropriate treatment. Your doctor may order a series of tests to help determine the stage of your esophageal cancer. All of these tests will be discussed in detail with you. 

The results of imaging and endoscopy tests, as well as biopsy results and blood tests will allow your doctor to stage your cancer and determine the best possible treatment for you. 

There are four stages of esophageal cancer, with Stage IV being the most advanced because it has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Stage 1 – A small tumor (7cm or less) limited to the esophagus
  • Stage 2 – A larger tumor still residing within the esophagus and not spreading to lymph nodes or other organs
  • Stage 3 – The tumor extends to nearby tissues and issues and may spread the lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 – The tumor is any size, has extended beyond the esophagus, and has spread to lymph nodes and other organs (e.g., liver, abdominal cavity)

Make an Appointment With an Esophageal Cancer Specialist

 The team at MD Anderson at Cooper can provide you with comprehensive, personalized care for esophageal cancer.
To learn more about the ways we can help you fight back against esophageal cancer at MD Anderson at Cooper or to schedule an appointment, please call 855.MDA.COOPER (855.632.2667).