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How do health-care professionals diagnose esophageal cancer?

The diagnosis of esophageal cancer is made by endoscopy and biopsy.

When symptoms of difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) occur, a gastroenterologist can do a procedure called an endoscopy where the patient swallows a flexible tube with an attached camera and the doctor can look at the full length of the esophagus, the stomach, and the first part of the intestine (duodenum). If a mass or tumor is seen in the esophagus, the gastroenterologist has the ability to take a sample of tissue (biopsy) through the same tube. The patient is usually sedated for endoscopy.

The tissue biopsy is examined by a pathologist using a microscope and the clinical diagnosis is then confirmed.

Return to Esophageal Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Juice308, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: January 08

I sometimes had difficulty with food getting stuck right below my sternum. I'm a 32 year old male. I didn't think much of it, but went to the doctor and was prescribed a barium swallow. This showed an irregular narrowing. The concerns led to scopes/EUS (endoscopic ultrasound) where it was diagnosed as stage 3a esophageal cancer. All this started three months ago (9/27) followed by 6 weeks of chemotherapy (carboplatin and taxol) and radiation. Potential surgery schedule for 1/22. For all of those who have these symptoms, please get it checked out. Before all this, I thought it was only symptoms of GERD, gall bladder problems, or hernia.

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Comment from: yellowroses, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: October 15

My husband, aged 63, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June and fast-tracked into chemotherapy and radiation for 6 weeks after PET scan and CAT scan of the Upper GI tract. Now we are waiting for surgery. He went to the doctor after not being able to get food down; it would back up and cause choking basically. The gastroenterologist did an Endoscopy and immediately, sent him to a surgeon who specifically works with esophageal cancers and its treatment.

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Comment from: Moonlight Sonata, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: May 24

My husband experienced sudden and severe weight loss and his doctor at the VA did absolutely nothing to investigate it, despite the fact that he pleaded with her to find out what was wrong for weeks. He also had severe anemia and her only suggestion was to pick up some iron pills at the drug store. They didn't work a bit, and she still didn't order any tests. Finally, I pulled him out of that place and insisted that he go to a private hospital. They were onto his problems in minutes and discovered that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer. The primary tumor was bleeding, which was causing the anemia and the cancer had already spread to his liver and bones. He started chemotherapy immediately and lasted a year before passing away.

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