Reviewed by Bronwyn Long,

The evaluation for esophageal cancer may include:

  • X-ray exam with a barium swallow – After drinking a thick liquid called a barium solution, you will have x-rays taken of your esophagus and stomach.  These x-rays are called an Upper GI Series.
  • Esophageal endoscopy (esophagoscopy) – A doctor uses a thin tube with a light on the end of it, called an endoscope, to look into your esophagus.  The doctor will numb your throat with medication.  You may receive medication to help you relax.  This procedure is also called an upper endoscopy or esophago-gastric-duodenoscopy (EGD)
  • Biopsy – The doctor uses an endoscope to biopsy tissue from the inner lining of the esophagus, where most esophageal cancer begins.  Another doctor called a pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope to identify cancer cells.

If the esophageal biopsy confirms a cancer diagnosis, a few more studies will be performed to determine if the cancer has spread. These may include specialized radiographic scans of your body and brain, and potentially biopsies of other areas. You will be referred to a cancer specialist, called an oncologist, who will recommend a treatment plan based on your stage and sub-type of cancer.

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