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MedicineWorld.org Oncology - Cancer - esophageal cancer
Your gateway to information on esophageal cancer

MedicineWorld.Org: Esophageal cancer

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  • Esophageal Cancer

    How is esophageal cancer diagnosed?
    Early stages of esophageal cancer are mostly without any symptoms, hence in most cases esophageal cancer is not diagnosed in these early stages. In some patients however early esophageal cancer may be found while doing tests for some other medical problems or unrelated symptoms. Once the patient is having symptoms that may suggest the possibility of esophageal cancer, several tests are available to confirm or exclude the possibility of esophageal cancer. These include:

    • Upper endoscopy
      If esophageal cancer is suspected, endoscopy (examination with a flexible tube fitted with a camera) is often the first choice to determine the nature of patient’s problem. With the use of endoscope (the instrument used for this procedure) the physician will be able to actually see the esophagus and can examine for the presence of cancer. If any suspicious sites are detected, the doctor can take a biopsy and send to the laboratory to study it under the microscope to determine the nature of the abnormality that was seen.

    • Barium studies
      A barium swallow or upper gastrointestinal series (X-rays ) can determine the presence of growth in the esophagus, but unlike an endoscopy test this technique will not result in confirmation of diagnosis of esophageal cancer since it is not possible to do a biopsy with this technique. Barium studies are much less invasive and causes little discomfort compared to endoscopy, hence this test is often the first test used if an esophageal cancer is suspected.

    • CT scan
      CT scanner is a machine that is capable of making cross sectional images of your body. It is not a good technique for the initial diagnosis of esophageal cancer, however it is a very useful test to determine the extent of spread of esophageal cancer once the diagnosis is made (staging process)

    • Endoscopic ultrasound examination
      This is a very good test for the determination of the size and penetration of the esophageal cancer and for this purpose the test is better than a CT scan examination. In this test the instrument delivering ultrasound (sound waves beyond our limit of hearing) beams is inserted in to the esophagus and pictures are taken based on the ultrasound pattern produced at the site of the tumor. Looking at the ultrasound pictures a physician can determine the size and local extent of the tumor

    • PET scan
      PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is a relatively new technique used to determine the extent of cancer. This test utilizes the fact that the cancer cells use glucose much more avidly compared to normal tissues. A radioactive glucose is injected in to the veins and using computerized radioactivity detection techniques the localization of the injected radioactive glucose is determined. Abnormal uptake of radioactive glucose may indicate the presence of cancer cells in that location Using this technique the physicians can accurately determine what is the extent of the esophageal cancer.

    • Thoracoscopy
      Thoracoscopy is a technique in which a flexible tube fitted with camera is inserted in to the chest wall through a small opening made on the chest wall. Using this technique, the physician can evaluate the esophagus from outside and can look for abnormally enlarged lymph nodes near the esophagus. Abnormally enlarged lymph nodes may be involved with cancer. This test is mainly used to determine the extent of esophageal cancer, prior to surgery. By doing this test the surgeon gets a view of the site where he is going to do the surgery. In many cases this may eliminate unnecessary surgery by correctly evaluating the situation at the site of planned surgery

    Esophageal cancer: resources

    Esophageal cancer: Diagnosis
    Upper endoscopy   (NDDIC)
    How Is Esophagus Cancer Diagnosed?   (American Cancer Society)
    Esophageal cancer: diagnosis   (ASCO)

    Esophageal cancer: Staging
    How Is Esophagus Cancer Staged?   (American Cancer Society)
    Esophageal cancer: staging   (ASCO)

    Esophageal cancer: Selected reading

    The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Esophageal Cancer
    by Icon Health Publications
    21st Century Complete Medical Guide to Esophageal Cancer
    by PM Medical Health News


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