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When you receive an esophageal cancer diagnosis, tests will be performed to determine how much cancer is present, and if the cancer has spread from the colon to other parts of the body. This is called staging and is an important step toward planning a treatment program.
The National Cancer Institute defines the following stages for esophageal cancer:
Stage 0 esophageal cancer
In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the innermost layer of tissue lining the esophagus. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.
Stage 1 esophageal cancer
Stage I: The cancer is detected only in the top layers of cells lining the esophagus.
In stage I, cancer has formed and spread beyond the innermost layer of tissue to the next layer of tissue in the wall of the esophagus.
Stage 2 esophageal cancer
Stage II: The cancer involves deeper layers of the lining of the esophagus or it has spread to nearby lymph nodes. However, the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
Stage II esophageal cancer is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB, depending on where the cancer has spread.
Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to the layer of esophageal muscle or to the outer wall of the esophagus.
Stage IIB: Cancer may have spread to any of the first three layers of the esophagus and to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3 esophageal cancer
Stage III: The cancer has spread into the wall of the esophagus or has spread to tissues or lymph nodes near the esophagus. However, it has not spread to other parts of the body.
In stage III, cancer has spread to the outer wall of the esophagus and may have spread to tissues or lymph nodes near the esophagus.
Stage 4 esophageal cancer
Stage IV: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.
Stage IV esophageal cancer is divided into stage IVA and stage IVB, depending on where the cancer has spread.
Stage IVA: Cancer has spread to nearby or distant lymph nodes.
Stage IVB: Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or organs in other parts of the body.
Recurrent esophageal cancer
Recurrent esophageal cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the esophagus or in other parts of the body.
Prognosis for esophageal cancer
When esophageal cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. Esophageal cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. Learn more about the types of esophageal cancer.
At later stages, esophageal cancer can be treated but rarely can be cured. Taking part in one of the clinical trials being done to improve treatment should be considered. Learn more about treatment for esophageal cancer.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.