New Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis - What to Expect

A new diagnosis of esophageal cancer can be stressful for patients and families.

In this video, we break down colon cancer information into three (3) simple categories: Diagnosis, Staging, and Treatment.

Read the full video transcript below:

The stress and complexity of a new diagnosis of esophageal cancer can be simplified into three simple steps: diagnosis, staging, and treatment. 

Most patients present with a new diagnosis of esophageal cancer with symptoms like difficulty swallowing and weight loss. Typically, the first step in diagnosis is an endoscopy, a procedure in which a flexible tube-like camera is inserted through the mouth down into the esophagus to look for problems. 

If a tumor is seen, a biopsy is performed. The biopsied material is examined under the microscope by a pathologist who tells the other doctors whether or not there is cancer in the specimen. Additional blood work is also performed at the time of diagnosis. Doctors often also recommend a nutrition console at the time of diagnosis.

The next step in management after initial diagnosis is staging. 

An ultrasound can be performed to determine how deep the tumor is invading into the esophagus or surrounding structures. CT and PET scan can be used to determine whether or not the tumor has traveled to other lymph nodes in the region or to organs elsewhere in the body.

If doctors are concerned that the esophageal cancer is invading into the windpipe, they may recommend a bronchoscopy, which is a procedure where a camera is introduced into the windpipe itself to look for cancer. 

Once doctors have established the diagnosis and the stage, they can select and recommend the most appropriate treatment. 

Patients who have curable esophageal cancer that has not metastasized elsewhere in the body usually have multiple treatments to achieve a cure. The cornerstone treatment for esophageal cancer is surgery, but surgery is often combined with other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation for more advanced stages of disease to achieve a cure.

Patients who have metastatic disease or esophageal cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body at the time of diagnosis, often get chemotherapy alone. The goal of palliative radiation is to relieve symptoms, like obstruction of food and fluids, as well as bleeding.

This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions.