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How do physicians determine esophageal cancer staging?

Staging describes a system used to show how deep the cancer has extended into the esophageal tissue, whether it has spread to lymph nodes, and what other organs in the body might be involved.

There is a common system agreed upon by the Union for International Cancer Control and the American Joint Committee on Cancer that uses TNM staging.

  • T refers to the size and reach of the primary tumor.
  • N refers to the spread to lymph nodes.
  • M refers to the presence of metastases.

With the endoscope, the gastroenterologist can use ultrasound to determine how deep into the layers of the esophagus the tumor has grown. The doctor can also tell whether lymph nodes that line the esophagus have been invaded.

Either CT scan of the chest and abdomen or PET scan is then used to determine the extent of tumor spread.

Depending on the type of cancer and the extent the tumor has spread, there are certain circumstances where more invasive procedures are warranted to help with staging: laparoscopy (an operation where a surgeon inserts a camera into the abdominal cavity), thoracoscopy (the camera is inserted into the chest cavity), and bronchoscopy (a camera is inserted into the lung airways).

Return to Esophageal Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Cheri E, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: July 06

My dear man was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal adenocarcinoma in June 2015. He's still here. His cancer is HER2 positive, which means that he can take Herceptin. In fact, that's all he has been taking for some months since the original chemotherapy caused severe neuropathy and he decided to discontinue it. He's still working (brain work) and we're still traveling and anticipating the birth of our first grandson. We know that the prognosis is not good. We continue to love and live; for as long as we can.

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Comment from: kevinclairmont, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: March 08

I have been dealing with cluster headaches for 23 years now. I get them on the right side, with excruciating pain in my right eye, tearing, nasal running, and the entire right side of my face droops. I experience them 2 to 8 times a day but mainly at night. I have tried a lot of different treatments and here's what works for me; 12 to 16 ml of 100 percent oxygen from an E-tank, verapamil, prednisone and injections of Kenalog, a steroid. The prednisone and Kenalog lessen the headaches and it only takes 10 minutes of oxygen for the headache to subside. Best wishes to all of my cluster head friends!

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Comment from: john, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: December 22

I was in a motorcycle accident, it was an occurrence due to failure of the rear tire while making a turn on a residential street. I basically did a full body slam on my right side onto the gutter, curb, and sidewalk with the bike slamming down on top of me resulting in a dislocated shoulder, and taking a thirty mph punch to the abdomen by the curb into soft area between the ribcage and pelvic area. I am very lucky nothing was broken or ruptured, however I had massive bruising that upon dissipation resulted in a very large hematoma over my right hip at the belt line. It has been six weeks and I see no shrinkage as of yet. I have been told that nothing can be done. I really need some sort of idea how to make this thing go away, it has increased my waist size from 34 to 44 on one side. If I find a solution I will post again.

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