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Barium swallow: A barium swallow is a cancer diagnosis imaging test that is designed to detect the presence of esophageal cancer. In this method of cancer diagnosis, a patient swallows a special liquid called barium. The liquid then coats the walls of the esophagus, allowing x ray tests to pick up the outline of the esophagus more clearly. A barium swallow cancer diagnosis can also be used in a series of x ray tests that observes parts of the stomach and intestines. Doctors often observe the results of the x ray and discover irregularities in its often smooth shape.

While barium swallow tests are accurate for showing cancerous irregularities inside the esophagus, they do not show if the cancer has spread outside of the esophagus, thus meaning that a barium swallow is not a definitive and conclusive method of cancer diagnosis for all cancer.  A barium swallow test is the first test a doctor may perform to discover what is causing a patient to have trouble swallowing normally. This method of cancer diagnosis is very accurate, to the point where even small cancers in the earliest stages can be found. A barium test works by indicating to doctors where a part of the esophagus protrudes out into the lumen, the name given to the open area of the tube.
This uneven pattern indicates that a growth may be present inside the esophagus. In most cases, when a cancer in the esophagus is found early in a barium x ray, the tumor is indicated by a small round bump in the often smooth lining of the esophagus tube. Cancers that have developed into advanced stages show up on the x ray as narrow areas of the esophagus A barium swallow test, while being instrumental in esophageal cancer diagnosis, can also determine whether or not further complications have arose as a direct result of the cancer. One such condition called tracheoesophageal fistula can be easily detected by a barium swallow test. Tracheoesophageal fistula occurs when cancer has damaged the tissue that is located between the esophagus and the trachea tube to the point where there is a hole that connects both. This is a dangerous condition because food that is swallowed by a person with this condition may pass from the esophagus to the lungs. This causes frequent coughing. A doctor may then perform surgery to help correct this problem.
Dysphagia: Esophageal cancer is often discovered based on the apparent symptoms that it causes. Very rarely does esophagus cancer become diagnosed in a patient not experiencing any set of symptoms (if so, it is often by accident). One major symptom of esophageal cancer is dysphagia. Dysphagia is defined as a condition which makes it difficult for a person to swallow. Though it can be an indication of several other conditions such as peptic esophagitis, esophageal web or external compression, it is often caused by carcinoma of the esophagus, also known as esophageal cancer. Doctors will often perform extensive tests to determine the cause of dysphagia, including a thorough scan of the esophagus, usually using an endoscope.  Dysphagia often includes a sensation that food that is swallowed is caught inside the throat or chest, even after much time has passed after eating. Dysphagia is a condition that is mild when it begins, but as time goes on, it becomes worse.  In most cases, a large tumor that has developed into an advanced stage of esophageal cancer is often the cause of dysphagia. The tumor in the advanced stage of esophageal cancer generally compresses the areas of the neck and check and may pinch the esophagus to half of its normal width. This is what gives the sensation that food is caught inside a person's throat or chest.
A person may have the symptoms of dysphagia and will often change his or her eating habits without noticing. He or she does this by taking smaller bites of food and chewing more thoroughly before swallowing it. As the condition worsens, he or she will begin eating softer foods that are easier to swallow and have less of an impact on the feeling of dysphagia. Eventually, he or she may avoid solid foods altogether as it becomes too severe to eat normally. As dysphagia enters into later stages, the saliva glands begin producing more saliva in order to make it easier to swallow food. When this happens, patients of dysphagia may begin to cough up more saliva and mucus. 
Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis: In most cases, an esophagus cancer diagnosis is performed in its advanced stages when patients feel apparent symptoms, such as trouble swallowing (dysphagia) or pain. Unfortunately, when esophageal cancer is showing symptoms, it is more difficult to treat. When esophageal cancer is found early by a cancer diagnosis, it is usually by accident during another examination or during a routine checkup. The two most common symptoms of esophageal cancer, which help aid in its cancer diagnosis, are dysphagia and chest pain.Dysphagia is defined as a condition that makes it difficult for a person to swallow. A patient may feel a sensation as if food is caught inside his or her throat or chest after eating.

As the condition becomes more and more severe, patients may find it too difficult to swallow harder foods, such as meat, and may eventually find it hard to swallow any kind of solid foods. Dysphagia may be a sign of several possible types of conditions, but the most common cause is esophagus cancer. Esophagal cancer can cause a pain or discomfort inside the middle part of the chest. This can be in the form of a burning sensation similar to the signs of acid reflux. As a result, this pain can just be mistaken for common heartburn, usually felt after eating a meal. Pain can also occur in the throat after swallowing. This occurs when the cancer is large enough to infringe on the area that the esophagus occupies.

When a person believes that he or she is feeling the symptoms of esophagus cancer, a physical examination will be necessary to accurately determine the causes of the symptoms. The examination begins when the doctor asks for background information about the patient, such as his or her daily habits. This is done to determine if there are known cancer risk factors present in their daily lives, such as smoking. As the doctor gathers information, the patient will have to reveal personal medical background, as well as family health history. After background information is understood, tests are performed if the doctor suspects that cancer may be present. 
One of the most common imaging tests used to detect esophagus cancer is the barium swallow. This test involves a patient swallowing a special liquid called barium. This liquid is designed to coat the esophagus so that the structure of it is more defined when it is x rayed. The x ray is very accurate in discovering small tumors, which show up as small bumps on the normally smooth lining of the esophagus. Doctors also find CT scans useful for esophagus cancer diagnosis. A CT scan is a detailed x ray that creates cross sectional images of the area in the chest being observed. CT scans are more difficult to perform that normal x rays because they require a patient to lie still for an extended period of time. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests provide images of the chest to detect the presence of cancer and help doctors to make a cancer diagnosis.. It uses radio waves to create a detailed image of the chest. The drawback is that an MRI exam takes time to complete and the test can be quite uncomfortable for many patients. 
An endoscopy is a test that involves inserting a thin, flexible tube down a patients throat to detect the presence of a tumor or cancerous cells inside the esophagus. The tube is usually fitted with a light and a camera so that a doctor can observe the structure of the esophagus on a monitor. It may also have the capability to take a tissue sample so that a biopsy can be performed. The biopsy gives a sure answer of whether or not cells are cancerous. There are several types of endoscopy tests that are performed to diagnose esophagus cancer: Upper endoscopy: A basic endoscopic test where a doctor observes the lining of the esophagus and may take a tissue sample for analysis.
Endoscopic Ultrasound: An endoscopic test that transmits sound waves to create a detailed image of the chest area. This test is ideal for determining if cancer has spread to surrounding tissue near the esophagus. Bronchoscopy: A endoscopic test used to examine the trachea and bronchial tubes that lead up to the lungs. This test is usually performed when a doctor suspects that cancer has spread to the trachea. Thoracoscopy and laparoscopy: These two tests are used to determine if esophagus cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the chest and abdomen area. A biopsy determines for sure if an area of abnormal tissue is cancerous or not. This test is performed because appearance is not always a clear indicator if cancer is present. 
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