How is staging of esophagael cancer performed?
If an esophageal cancer is diagnosed, staging is the process that physicians use to determine how advanced the cancer is and whether the cancer has spread. Depending on the type of cancer, specific staging tests are performed aimed at investigating the most common areas for that cancer to spread. For esophageal cancer, the common areas of spread are the lymph glands (or lymph nodes), lungs, liver, adrenal glands, kidneys, bones, and lining of the chest and abdomen.
The CT scan of the chest and abdomen is useful to evaluate the lungs, liver, and adrenal glands for spread from an esophageal cancer, but is not much good for looking at lymph nodes for potential cancer spread.
The main tumor and adjacent lymph nodes are sometimes evaluated using endoscopic ultrasonography, or EUS. This is an endoscopic test that utilizes a special telescope which emits ultrasound waves that can produce a picture of the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes.
A bone scan is sometimes performed to determine whether the cancer has spread to the bones. Another useful staging test is PET scanning, which measures the level of metabolic activity in tissues and thus provides unique information about possible cancer locations.