Surgical staging of esophageal cancer

Chest Surg Clin N Am. 2000 Aug;10(3):487-97.


The rising incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and the poor overall 5-year survival using current treatment regimens make it essential that clinical trials continue to search for more effective regimens for specific stages of esophageal cancer. It is clear from work in non-small cell lung cancer that clinical efficacy for platinum-based chemotherapeutic regimens has shown promise only in specific subsets of patients, such as those with stage IIIa tumors, but no benefit at all for earlier stages. In lung cancer, mediastinoscopy has been shown to be the most accurate method to stage locoregional lymph nodes and is considered to be the gold standard for clinical trials. In esophageal cancer, accurate surgical staging of all locoregional lymph nodes is more complex and may involve abdominal, thoracic, and cervical areas. Molecular evidence of lymph node involvement in esophageal cancer suggests that even histologically negative nodes may harbor micrometastases in a significant number of cases. Laparoscopy and thoracoscopy now offer a more accurate alternative to conventional staging of esophageal cancer. For distal esophageal cancers near the gastroesophageal junction, laparoscopic staging alone may suffice in most cases. Associated costs and the requirement for a surgical procedure should encourage the continued evaluation of new noninvasive modalities and the further evolution of endoscopic ultrasound. Currently, we recommend the application of minimally invasive surgical staging to assess new noninvasive technologies, such as PET scanning, and for use in clinical trials until the definitive approach to staging esophageal cancer is established. We are currently participating in an ongoing multicenter study of thoracoscopic and laparoscopic staging for esophageal cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endosonography
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Survival Rate
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed