Minimally invasive staging of esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is one of the most common malignancies in the world today and the sixth-leading cause of cancer-related mortality. Accurate preoperative staging of esophageal cancer is imperative to the selection of appropriate treatments. Patients with esophageal carcinomas typically undergo a multimodality staging process including noninvasive imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET), as well as endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), which is slightly more invasive. Minimally invasive surgical staging, with laparoscopy, occasionally in combination with video-assisted thoracoscopy, is used in the staging process at select institutions and has been shown to be more accurate than noninvasive staging modalities. Two major advantages of minimally invasive surgical staging over conventional techniques are the improved assessment of locoregional disease and enhanced identification of distant metastases. These advantages decrease the likelihood that the patient will undergo a nontherapeutic laparotomy. Currently, no clear consensus exists regarding which patients with esophageal cancer would benefit most from the addition of minimally invasive surgical staging. We have, however, found that minimally invasive surgical staging with laparoscopy is particularly valuable in detection of occult distant metastases. In this article, we summarize the staging modalities for esophageal cancer including minimally invasive surgical staging.