It has been estimated that 70 per cent of stenoses of

the esophagus in adults are malignant in nature. This should stimulate

the early and careful investigation of every case of dysphagia. When

all cases of persistent dysphagia, however slight, are endoscopically

studied, precancerous lesions may be discovered and treated, and the

limited malignancy of the early stages may be afforded surgical

treatment while yet there is hope of complete removal. Luetic and

tuberculous ulceration of the esophagus are to be eliminated by

suitable tests, supplemented in rare instances by biopsy. Aneurysm of

the aorta must in all cases of dysphagia be excluded, for the dilated

aorta may be the sole cause of the condition, and its presence

contraindicates esophagoscopy because of the liability of rupture.

Foreign body is to be excluded by history and roentgenographic study.

Spasmodic stenosis of the esophagus may or may not have a malignant

origin. Esophagoscopy and removal of a specimen for biopsy renders the

diagnosis certain. It is to be especially remembered, however, that it

is very unwise to bite through normal mucosa for the purpose of taking

a specimen from a periesophageal growth. Fungations and polypoid

protuberances afford safe opportunities for the removal of specimens

of tissue.

The esophagoscopic appearances of malignant disease, varying with

the stage and site of origin of the growth, may present as follows:--

1. Submucosal infiltration covered by perfectly normal membrane,

usually associated with more or less bulging of the esophageal wall,

and very often with hardness and infiltration.

2. Leucoplakia.

3. Ulceration projecting but little above the surface at the edges.

4. Rounded nodular masses grouped in mulberry-like form, either dark

or light red in color.

5. Polypoid masses.

6. Cauliflower fungations.

In considering the esophagoscopic appearances of cancer, it is

necessary to remember that after ulceration has set in, the cancerous

process may have engrafted upon it, and upon its neighborhood, the

results of inflammation due to the mixed infections. Cancer invading

the wall from without may for a long time be covered with perfectly

normal mucous membrane. The significant signs at this early stage are:

1. Absence of one or more of the normal radial creases between the


2. Asymmetry of the inspiratory enlargement of lumen.

3. Sensation of hardness of the wall on palpation with the tube.

4. The involved wall will not readily be made to wrinkle when pushed

upon with the tube mouth.

In all the later forms of lesions the two characteristics are (a) the

readiness with which oozing of blood occurs; and (b) the sense of

rigidity, or fixation, of the involved area as palpated with the

esophagoscope, in contrast to the normally supple esophageal wall.

Esophageal dilatation above a malignant lesion is rarely great,

because the stenosis is seldom severely obstructive until late in the

course of the disease.

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