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Esophageal Cancer Tests, Diagnosis, Stages and Prognosis

The team at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is focused on providing you with the best and latest esophageal cancer testing. We’ll be by your side to support and guide you throughout your cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Are There Screening Tests for Esophageal Cancer?

Screening tests for esophageal cancer are not common, except for patients at high risk, especially those with Barrett's esophagus. If you are older than age 45 and have other esophageal cancer risk factors, talk to your doctor about screening options.

What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Esophageal Cancer?

In addition to a physical exam, doctors use a variety of tests to find esophageal cancer and determine which treatments may work best.

Esophageal Cancer Tests

  • Upper Endoscopy: Under sedation, an endoscope with a camera is inserted down the esophagus. Sometimes a biopsy (tissue sample) is taken. This a common way to diagnose esophageal cancer.
  • Biopsy: A small tissue sample is taken from the suspicious area for analysis. A biopsy is needed to make a definitive cancer diagnosis.
  • Image Testing: By creating detailed images of the inside of the body, doctors can examine abnormalities in the esophagus and surrounding tissues or see how far the cancer has spread. Types of image testing include:
    • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography (PET/CT) scans
    • X-ray/Barium Swallow (Esophagram)
  • DNA Testing: Identifies genetic mutations in the cancer cell. Learn more about Banner MD Anderson’s genetic testing
  • Nutrition Panel: Looks for nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin D and iron.
  • Blood Testing: While blood testing cannot detect esophageal cancer, if a tumor is bleeding, a blood test can show anemia.

What Is the Prognosis of an Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis?

Although esophageal cancer is treatable, it’s rarely curable. Early detection can improve your prognosis.

If you’ve received an esophageal cancer diagnosis, you likely feel overwhelmed. Banner MD Anderson’s caring staff is here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learning about your condition can help you feel more in control.

Esophageal Cancer Stages

Doctors use stages to measure how much your cancer has spread (metastasized), determine your treatment options and monitor improvement. Stage 0 is the earliest esophageal cancer can be detected and stage 4 esophageal cancer progression is the most advanced.

  • Stage 0: Cancer is on the top layer of cells lining the esophagus.
  • Stage I (1): Cancer is small and limited to the esophagus.
  • Stage II (2): Cancer is larger, but still in the esophagus.
  • Stage III (3): Cancer has spread to tissues, organs, and/or lymph nodes near the esophagus.
  • Stage IV (4): Cancer has spread to parts of the body further from the esophagus, like the liver or stomach.

If you are at high risk for esophageal cancer or are having symptoms, consider making an appointment with a Banner MD Anderson esophageal cancer specialist today.

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