Tests and procedures used to diagnose esophageal cancer include:

  • Using a scope to examine your esophagus (endoscopy). During endoscopy, your doctor passes a flexible tube equipped with a video lens (videoendoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus. Using the endoscope, your doctor examines your esophagus, looking for cancer or areas of irritation.
  • Collecting a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy). Your doctor may use a special scope passed down your throat into your esophagus (endoscope) to collect a sample of suspicious tissue (biopsy). The tissue sample is sent to a laboratory to look for cancer cells.

Esophageal cancer staging

When you're diagnosed with esophageal cancer, your doctor works to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. Your cancer's stage helps determine your treatment options.

Tests used in staging esophageal cancer include endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), computerized tomography (CT) scan and positron emission tomography (PET).

The stages of esophageal cancer are:

  • Stage in situ. Cancerous cells are visible microscopically on the lining of the esophagus but have not invaded the deeper parts of the inner lining of the esophagus.
  • Stage I. This cancer occurs in the superficial layers and has begun to invade the first layers of the inner lining of your esophagus and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage II. The cancer has invaded deeper muscular layers of your esophagus and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III. The cancer has spread to the deepest layers of the wall of your esophagus — through the muscle layers — and to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV. The cancer has spread to other parts of your body.