If you have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, you may wish to ask your physician the following additional four questions:
1. What diagnostic tests will I be taking besides the biopsy that has already been done or recommended?
Doctors can run a combination of diagnostic tests to confirm the size, location, malignancy, and spread of the tumor. The common diagnostic tests are:
• Barium Swallow Test – Imaging of the swallowed barium as it passes through the patient’s esophagus and stomach. Also known as the upper GI series, the barium coating brings out better contrast in X-rayed images and allows for better understanding of the presentation.
• CT scan – Computerized axial tomography scans may be performed on the chest, abdomen, and/or brain to examine for metastatic cancers. This is a high resolution imaging procedure showing organs from different angles to a certain depth.
• PET Scan - Positron emission tomography helps determine whether a tumor tissue is actively growing and determines the type of cells within a tumor.
• Biopsy – Tissues suspected of being cancerous need to be examined under a microscope for their malignancy. Tissue samples are taken from the suspicious site in the esophagus, lung, by passing a special scope for this purpose.
• Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (GERD) – This involves the passing of a flexible tube down the esophagus and visualizing the wall.
• Laryngoscopy - This helps visualize the larynx or voice box with the help of a lighted tube.
• Bronchoscopy – Bronchoscopy is done with a thin fiber optic probe to obtain samples of the tumor for further tests such as biopsy. It is also used to visualize the tumor.
• Laproscopy – An incision is made in the abdomen through which a lighted tube is inserted to examine the spread of the cancer to other organs or to take samples for biopsy.
• Endoscopic Ultrasound – Also known as endosonography, it provides "staging" information regarding the level of tumor invasion, and possible spread to regional lymph nodes.
• Thoracoscopy – Here, an incision is made in the chest through which a lighted tube is inserted to check for the cancer in the esophagus.