Recent changes in the epidemiology of esophageal carcinoma now recognize adenocarcinoma as the predominant histologic cell type. Barrett's esophagus and dysplasia in this epithelium identify patients who are at risk of developing invasive adenocarcinoma. This neoplasm is not a single entity with a consistently poor prognosis, and disease stage is important for determining therapy. These findings offer the potential for further development of therapeutic regimens. Endoscopic esophageal ultrasound is an accurate and reproducible staging tool. It allows the physician to determine clinical stage and modify treatment. T2 N0 M0 or lesser stage tumors have acceptable surgical cure rates, and patients should undergo immediate resection. Patients with more advanced T3 or N1 tumors have a potential for cure but do poorly with surgery alone. These patients should be considered for multimodality therapy. Palliative therapy should be given to patients with hematogenous metastatic disease. Treatment stratification by stage proves that esophageal carcinoma is not a uniformly fatal disease without hope for cure.