Esophageal Cancer TNM Staging Explained In Detail


Esophageal cancer TNM staging helps to determine the disease prognosis and to select an appropriate treatment strategy. It is the most commonly used staging system for esophageal cancer.

“T” stands for “Tumor Size”, “N” for “Lymph Nodes”, and “M” for “Metastasis”. Numbers and/or letters after T (is, 1a, 1b, 2, and 3), N (0, 1, 2, and 3), and M (0 and 1) provide more details about each of these factors.

Tis Pre-cancerous or cancerous cells present only in the epithelium of esophagus
T1a Tumor invades mucosa
T1b Cancerous cells present in all layers of the esophagus epithelium and into the middle muscular layer
T2 Tumor invades the muscular layer (muscularis propria)
T3 Tumor invades in the serosa/adventitia
T4a Tumor invades the pleura, pericardium, azygous vein, diaphragm , or peritoneum
T4b Tumor invades other adjacent structures, such as aorta, vertebral body, or airway.
Esophageal Cancer TNM Staging
Esophageal Cancer T Staging
N0No regional lymph node involvement
N1Tumor has spread to 1 to 2 regional lymph nodes
N2Tumor has spread to 3 to 6 regional lymph nodes
N3Tumor has spread to 7 or more regional lymph nodes
M0No spread to distant sites
M1Spread to distant sites like lungs, pleura, peritoneum, liver, bones, etc
Esophageal Cancer N and M Staging

Watch the video below where Cancerbro explains the TNM STAGING OF ESOPHAGEAL CANCER.

Video Transcript:

The staging system used for esophageal cancer is known as TNM staging system.

This diagram is a magnified image of a cross-section of the wall of esophageal. Imagine the upper part is the inner side and the lower part is the outer side. The innermost layer is called as epithelium, followed by this layer, called as lamina propria.

Outer to the lamina propria is this layer called muscularis mucosa.

Outer to which, lies this layer which is called as submucosa. Then lies muscularis propria.

And on the outermost aspect, lies this layer which is called as serosa or adventitia.

Now, let’s discuss the T-staging for esophageal cancer.

First is Tis, or carcinoma in situ. This is not considered malignant and is localized to the epithelium.

Infiltration of lamina propria or muscularis mucosa is called as T1a disease.

Infiltration into submucosa is called as T1b.

Muscularis propria infiltration is called as T2. And infiltration of serosa or adventitia is called as T3.

Till T3 disease, the cancer is limited to the wall of esophageal and does not extend outside to involve adjacent structures.

Whereas in T4 disease, cancer infiltrates through the wall of esophageal and involves adjacent structures, like in this figure, cancer has infiltrated into the heart or pericardium.

And here, it has infiltrated into the lungs or pleura.

And here it infiltrates the diaphragm.

It may also infiltrate anteriorly, into the trachea. Or into the great vessels of the heart.

So this finishes the T-stage, now let’s come to the N-stage.

N staging maybe N1, N2 or N3, depending upon the number of lymph nodes involved.

Last comes the M or the metastatic staging, which determines the spread of cancer to distant sites. Like in this figure, cancer has spread to involve both the lungs.

And here it has spread to the liver in form of multiple nodular deposits.

Rarely, cancer may spread to bones.

So this completes the TNM for esophageal cancer staging.

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