The incidence of esophageal cancer increases, with approximately 482,000 patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. Despite the growing incidence of esophageal carcinoma, the extent of the lymphadenectomy is still under discussion. Lymph node status is an important prognostic parameter in esophageal cancer and an independent predictor of survival. Surgical strategy depends on the distribution pattern of nodal metastases but consensus on the extent of lymphadenectomy differs worldwide. For squamous cell cancer, Japanese surgeons have standardized the 2- or 3-field lymphadenectomy according to the location of the tumor. For adenocarcinoma, in the Western World accounting for 85% of all esophageal cancers, the type of lymphadenectomy to perform is not clear. Moreover, the use of neoadjuvant therapy may influence the mediastinal lymph nodes and the significance of the lymphadenectomy for survival. These aspects have challenged the traditional policy concerning lymphadenectomy, at least in the Western World. Furthermore, an extensive lymphadenectomy may improve survival but, on the other hand, may cause significant more morbidity. An overview of the literature on the extent of lymphadenectomy for esophageal cancer with respect to the supposed lymph node distribution patterns for squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, the different lymph node classification systems, the commonly used surgical techniques and outcomes, and the proposal of observational cohort study to standardize the type of lymphadenectomy according to the type of tumor, location and use of neoadjuvant therapy will be provided.