Detection and staging of esophageal cancers

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Technology for detection and staging of esophageal cancer has made significant strides advances in the past 2 years. These advances have led to the enhanced selection of appropriate treatments for esophageal cancer. Cancers that are discovered at an early stage can be treated with endoscopic therapy, whereas advanced cancers are primarily treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

Recent findings

Detection of esophageal cancer can be enhanced by two major mechanisms: one is by enhancing the lesion, which has typically been done using vital dyes and the other is by changing the method of imaging of the lesion, which has been accomplished by the use of several technologies including fluorescence and optical coherence tomography. Neither of these techniques has been proven, but some investigators have been able to use them to enhance cancer detection. Similar technologies have been applied to staging esophageal cancer. The optical imaging devices also have the potential to stage mucosa-based malignancy. The use of positron emission tomography has been the most recent development that may have application for advanced cancer. Endoscopic ultrasonography has also been improved in resolution and ability to perform fine needle aspiration. The most significant development for staging early cancers is mucosal resection. Finally, by using mucosal resection techniques, the depth of tumor invasion can be established by histology, which allows gastroenterologists to treat early cancers with greater confidence regarding rates of metastatic disease.

Summary

Early detection of esophageal cancer can be enhanced by the use of vital dyes for mucosal staining, but the advancement of novel optical diagnostic strategies may be more suitable for clinical use. The primary advantage of these new staging methods is to clearly identify early stage cancer that potentially can be treated without traditional surgical resection techniques. More advanced cancers can be staged with positron emission tomography, but definitive studies demonstrating its role are still lacking.

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