This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Esophageal cancer is a cancer of the esophagus, the hollow tube that carries foods and liquids from the throat to the stomach. Symptoms that may develop as the cancer grows include heartburn, pain when swallowing, difficulty swallowing, a hoarse voice, a cough that does not go away, weight loss, and coughing up blood. The exact cause of esophageal cancer usually is not known, but both environmental and genetic factors are thought to play a role in its development. For example, variations or mutations in any of several genes may cause susceptibility to esophageal cancer. Environmental factors that may increase a person’s chance to develop esophageal cancer include tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, older age, obesity, and damage to the esophagus from acid reflux (Barrett esophagus). The diagnosis may be based on imaging studies and tests such as chest X-ray, upper endoscopy, and a biopsy of tissue from the esophagus. Treatment options and the chance of recovery depend on the stage of the cancer, whether it can be surgically removed, and a person’s general health. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, laser therapy, and electrocoagulation. Other treatment options, such as targeted therapy, are being studied in clinical trials. When it is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. When the cancer is more advanced, it can be treated but rarely can be cured.
For more information, visit GARD.