Last week, my close friend's father was diagnosed to have cancer of the esophagus. This made me want to know more about this particular disease. So I did a google search on esophageal cancer and found 3-4 websites that had some basic information about esophageal cancer.
Almost all the websites I read seem to agree with one thing.
"It is very hard to detect esophageal cancer early"
The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is difficulty in eating/swallowing. Because most people mistake it for some digestion problem or acid reflux, they generally don't consult a doctor. They take some over-the-counter medicines hoping that it will go away. Some people think their eating style is what is causing the problem, so they try to change their eating style. They eat slowly and the problem might seem to disappear. This way the cancer lies undetected. The swallowing problem will reappear from time to time, only to go away when you change your eating habits. Finally the tumor grows so large that the patient might find it difficult even to drink water. It is only at this stage that most people think of consulting a doctor/gastroenterologist. By this time, the situation might be life threatening as the cancer might have spread to other body parts such as lungs or liver.
Early detection will result in faster cure - As with any cancer, early detection and treatment will result in faster cure and prevent any serious damage. Esophageal cancer usually occurs in men/women above 55-60 years of age. So if any elderly person known to you complains of difficulty/painful swallowing of food, ask them to consult a doctor immediately.
This site seems to have some basic info on esophageal cancer.