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Stages of Esophageal Cancer

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    Stage III squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus

    Stage III is divided into Stage IIIA, Stage IIIB, and Stage IIIC, depending on where the cancer has spread.

    • Stage IIIA: Cancer:
      • is in the inner (mucosal) layer and may have spread into the middle (muscle) layer of the esophageal wall. Cancer is found in 3 to 6 lymph nodes near the tumor; or
      • has spread into the outer (connective tissue) layer of the esophageal wall. Cancer is found in 1 or 2 lymph nodes near the tumor; or
      • has spread into the diaphragm, sac around the heart, or tissue that covers the lungs and lines the inner wall of the chest cavity. The cancer can be removed by surgery.
    • Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread into the outer (connective tissue) layer of the esophageal wall. Cancer is found in 3 to 6 lymph nodes near the tumor.
    • Stage IIIC: Cancer has spread:
      • into the diaphragm, sac around the heart, or tissue that covers the lungs and lines the inner wall of the chest cavity; the cancer can be removed by surgery. Cancer is found in 1 to 6 lymph nodes near the tumor; or
      • into other nearby organs such as the aorta, trachea, or spine, and the cancer cannot be removed by surgery; or
      • to 7 or more lymph nodes near the tumor.

    Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus

    In Stage IV, cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

    The following stages are used for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus:

    Stage 0 (High-grade Dysplasia)

    In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the inner (mucosal) layer of the esophageal wall. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called high-grade dysplasia.

    Stage I adenocarcinoma of the esophagus

    Stage I is divided into Stage IA and Stage IB, depending on where the cancer is found.

    • Stage IA: Cancer has formed in the inner (mucosal) layer of the esophageal wall. The tumor cells look a lot like normal cells under a microscope.
    • Stage IB: Cancer has formed:
      • in the inner (mucosal) layer of the esophageal wall. The tumor cells do not look at all like normal cells under a microscope and they grow quickly; or
      • in the inner (mucosal) layer and spread into the middle (muscle) layer of the esophageal wall. The tumor cells look a lot like normal cells under a microscope.
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