When esophageal cancer is detected, tests are completed to determine the severity of the cancer. The doctor diagnoses the condition using standardized stages of esophageal cancer developed by the National Cancer Institute. These stages help doctors recommend the appropriate treatment.
The staging for esophageal cancer depends on the type of cancer that is diagnosed.
These are the stages of adenocarcinoma esophageal cancer:
- Stage 0 – called high-grade dysplasia. Abnormal cells are found in the inner layer of the esophagus. This could develop into cancer.
- Stage I – Cancer is found in the inner layer of the wall and may or may not look like normal cells under a microscope. Cancer may have spread to the middle layer of the esophagus wall.
- Stage II – Cancer spread to the middle or outer layer. Cells look abnormal and grow quickly. May have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III – Cancer has spread to the outer layer, nearby lymph nodes and tissue around the esophagus (diaphragm, sac around the heart or chest cavity lining).
- Stage IV – Cancer has spread to other, farther parts of the body.
These are the stages of squamous cell carcinoma:
- Stage 0 – Abnormal cells found in the inner muscular wall. Also called high-grade dysphasia.
- Stage I – Cancer is found in the inner layer of the esophageal wall and may have spread to the middle layer.
- Stage II – Cancer has spread to the outer layer of the esophageal wall and maybe the nearby lymph nodes. Tumor can be located anywhere in the esophagus.
- Stage III – Cancer has spread to nearby tissue, including the nearby lymph nodes, diaphragm, tissue covering the lungs or inner chest cavity wall. May have spread to nearby organs (aorta, trachea, spine).
- Stage IV – Cancer has spread to organs and tissue far away from the esophagus.