This test can let the doctor see the lining of the esophagus all the way down to the gastroesophageal junction (where it meets the stomach). Upper endoscopy can confirm whether a person has cancer in the esophagus, as well as its size.
For this test, the doctor sprays the throat with a local anesthetic to numb the area. This helps reduce discomfort and gagging. The doctor may also give the patient medication to reduce pain and a sedative to help the patient relax. Then, the doctor inserts a lighted tube with a tiny camera on the end, called an endoscope, through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. The doctor sees the picture from the scope on a monitor. These pictures of the inside of the esophagus let the doctor note any tissue that is not normal.
If needed, the doctor can also insert tools through the endoscope to remove a small bit of tissue for testing. This is called a biopsy. The doctor sends the removed tissue to a lab. There, it is looked at under a microscope by a special doctor called a pathologist. The pathologist can see whether cancer is present.
An upper GI endoscopy takes about 30 minutes. The patient will stay in the testing area for about one to two hours until the sedative wears off.
If cancer is found, other types of imaging or endoscopy tests may be needed to help determine how far the cancer has spread.