For cytological examination of the esophagus, a small piece of gauze is rubbed past a suspected lesion by means of an esophageal dilator introduced over a rubber-tipped guide wire. Smears made from the material thus obtained contain large numbers of well-preserved cells. This facilitates accurate differentiation of benign from malignant lesions, since the probability of finding tumor cells in a case of cancer depends on the total number of cells sampled and correct identification requires cells in a well-preserved state. Except where esophageal varices are suspected, this method appears to be safe. No complications were encountered, and diagnostic accuracy was high.