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Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis

When it comes to esophageal cancer diagnosis, you want to have the utmost confidence in the accuracy of your evaluation—as well as comfort knowing you’re in the best hands if treatment is required. At The Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, our esophageal cancer specialists use the latest testing techniques to give you a thoroughly vetted diagnosis you can trust.  

Why Choose Johns Hopkins for Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis?

We offer the most advanced diagnostic procedures and technology for esophageal cancer diagnosis, including endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), an advanced imaging technology. More importantly, our doctors have the highest available level of experience in correctly analyzing results and identifying important concerns that might otherwise be overlooked.   

When diagnosing esophageal cancer, we offer:

  • A thorough, team-driven approach to your diagnosis: While many cancer treatment centers claim a multidisciplinary approach, ours is one of the few that actually puts all of your doctors and specialists in the same room. The team members review your test results together and collaborate to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan. Meet our team.
  • More precise test results: We have some of the nation’s top specialists in endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS), an ultrasound technique that can provide a closer diagnosis for more accurate treatment. 
  • High patient volume: We are one of the largest esophageal cancer programs in the nation. This experience gives us the necessary expertise to recognize subtle signs in test results that might otherwise be missed.
  • Compassionate, coordinated care: Before you receive a diagnosis, you will be able to call and talk to a coordinator, who will be your personal contact through the first steps of the diagnosis process and beyond. We’ll arrange all your tests ahead of time, to make your visit as convenient and worry-free as possible.
  • Expert second opinion consultations: Perhaps you want the extra reassurance of your treatment plan at your local cancer center. Or perhaps you are seeking treatment with us. Our expert oncologists provide thorough second opinion consultations so you can move forward with more certainty.

Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis: Our Approach

Esophageal cancer is often not diagnosed until it reaches advanced stages, so accuracy in the diagnosis and staging process is especially crucial for the best possible outcome. The nature of esophageal cancer demands an all-hands-on-deck strategy that is different from other types of cancer.

Our oncologists (cancer specialists) helped to pioneer the team-driven approach that is now used by other esophageal cancer treatment programs. We continue to evolve this approach, offering our patients unequaled care and effective diagnosis and treatment. Our goal is to make sure your experience here is as comfortable as possible by giving you the utmost in streamlined, compassionate, and personalized care.

Our Team-driven Approach to Diagnosis

  • Convenient testing: As soon as you are referred to us, we begin by arranging all of your testing to occur in one to two visits, making testing convenient to you. 
  • Personal coordinator: Your testing will be arranged by our expert cancer care coordinator, who already knows the details of your case and is ready to answer all of your questions. This coordinator will remain your personal contact throughout your time with us.
  • Collaborative team: A team of our doctors, cancer specialists, gastroenterologists, and expert staff meet together to review your test results and develop a diagnosis and action plan. This type of collaboration is rare among cancer treatment centers.
  • Your treatment plan: Within a week to 10 days of your first phone call, you will undergo multiple tests to accurately diagnose and stage your cancer and then come in for a full day of meetings with our experts to discuss your treatment plan. You will meet one-on-one with each of our esophageal cancer oncologists, learn about what to expect from your treatment plan, and have a chance to voice all of your questions and concerns. Learn more about our approach to esophageal cancer treatments.

Esophageal Cancer Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

We offer the latest tests and procedures for diagnosing esophageal cancer, including some methods not found elsewhere. Your testing may include one or more of the following:

  • Video fluoroscopic swallowing exam: This test, also called a VFSE, is a digital movie of your esophagus while you swallow. Our physicians have unmatched expertise in this procedure, which is not offered at many centers.
  • Endoscopic ultrasonography: An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is one of the most accurate imaging procedures for detecting esophageal cancer. Our team includes some of the nation’s foremost specialists in endoscopic ultrasound. EUS combines endoscopy with high-frequency ultrasound to provide high-resolution, detailed images of the tumor, the esophageal wall and adjacent structures.
  • Endoscopic confocal microscopy: This technology allows doctors to obtain microscopic images using laser technology to provide immediate results without a biopsy or pathology. This can help your doctor diagnose early cancer for removal without surgery. Johns Hopkins researchers published the leading study on using endoscopic confocal microscopy for early detection of cancer and precancerous change.
  • Endoscopy with biopsy: Sometimes called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD, this is the most common test a doctor will perform to test for precancerous conditions like Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. With this technique, the doctor can use an endoscope (a flexible tube with an attached high-definition camera that allows your doctor to see inside your body) to target abnormal areas to biopsy.
  • CT scan: A CT scan, or computed tomography, is an imaging test that’s commonly used after cancer is diagnosed. It allows us to see how locally advanced the tumor is or whether it has spread beyond the esophagus.
  • PET scan: In cases of esophageal cancer, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan is used in staging, a process that determines if the cancer has spread to areas beyond the esophagus. A PET scan uses radioactive dye to highlight parts of your body during scanning, so a doctor can see potentially cancerous areas to treat.

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