In its early stages, esophageal cancer often causes no symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic. As the disease progresses, patients may experience difficulty swallowing, coughing or hoarseness, unexplained weight loss, and heartburn or indigestion. Some patients experience a feeling of pressure or burning in the chest. As esophageal cancer progresses, it can cause an obstruction, preventing food or liquid from passing through the esophagus, or cause bleeding in the esophagus.
Esophageal cancer typically begins in the cells lining the inside of the esophagus, explains Mayo Clinic. Although it can develop anywhere in the esophagus, it most often occurs in the lower area of the esophagus in patients in the United States. As of 2015, the cause of esophageal cancer is unknown.
Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a patient's overall health, the type of cells involved in the cancer and the stage of the cancer, according to Mayo Clinic. Surgical treatment options include the removal of small tumors, the removal of part of the esophagus, and the removal of part of the esophagus as well as the upper portion of the stomach. In the event of an esophageal obstruction, doctors can insert a metal stent to hold the esophagus open. Doctors may also recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill cancer cells.