Diagnosis for Esophageal Cancer
Unfortunately most esophageal cancer isn’t diagnosed until symptoms prompt patients to seek medical care. Symptoms of esophageal cancer can mimic other conditions and can be often ignored causing a delay in medical care.
The most common symptoms for esophageal cancer –
- Difficulty or trouble swallowing (feeling of food stuck in the throat)
- Chronic chest pain-similar to the pain you may have suffered with from chronic heartburn. Pain is more intense a few seconds after swallowing or when food or liquid reaches the site of the cancer
- Unintended weight loss (due to swallowing problems or decreased appetite)
- Coughing or hoarseness
It is important to see a physician if you are experiencing these symptoms regularly. John Muir Health offers a number of diagnostic tests to quickly and accurately get a definitive reading on your condition. Based on your symptoms, your physician will determine the most appropriate tests.
Endoscopy – Uses a flexible scope with a lens which is inserted into the patient’s mouth and guided into the esophagus to search for any abnormalities. Tissue samples can be collected for a microscopic evaluation to determine if there is the presence of abnormal changes (Barrett’s Esophagus) in the esophageal tissue or actual cancer cells.
Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) – Like the endoscopy, a special endoscope with an ultrasound probe is inserted into the esophagus. This is a highly sensitive, but minimally invasive procedure which uses high frequency sound waves to obtain detailed inside the esophagus, helping us visualize and biopsy any abnormalities in the esophagus, surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Based on how advanced the cancer is, this procedure can be key to determining treatment options.
Barium Swallow/Upper GI – The barium swallow test is a type of imaging that uses barium and X-rays to visualize your upper GI structures. It may be used alone or in combination with other tests to gather information on your esophagus, stomach and the first part of your intestine. This test is usually given to symptomatic patients who are having difficulty with, or painful swallowing, abdominal pain, bloodstained vomit or unexplained weight loss.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan – A computer-enhanced X-ray especially useful for detecting smaller tumors, enlarged lymph nodes, or metastases to other parts of the body. This test is generally done after a diagnosis of cancer to determine if the cancer is localized to the esophagus or if, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan – This non-invasive procedure may be used in conjunction with a CT scan and helps us track any abnormal metabolic activity within the body. This test is generally done after a diagnosis of cancer to determine if the cancer is localized to the esophagus or if, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.