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Esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer symptoms

Esophageal cancer is not commonly diagnosed until a patient experiences symptoms. If a doctor suspects an esophageal tumor, he or she may order diagnostic tests, including an endoscopy, an endoscopic ultrasound, imaging tests, a biopsy and/or lab tests.

Factors that may increase the risk for developing esophageal cancer include obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, as well as certain disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Barrett’s esophagus, a condition caused by chronic acid reflux.

Early warning signs of esophageal cancer

Typically, the first symptom of cancer that develops in the esophagus is difficulty swallowing, which may feel as if food is stuck in the throat and may lead to choking. Although this symptom is often mild to start, as the tumor grows, it generally worsens and may eventually lead to an inability to swallow liquid.

Other common signs of cancer of the esophagus include:

  • Trouble swallowing, or dysphagia, that generally worsens over time
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • Indigestion and heartburn

Although these symptoms may indicate a tumor in the esophagus, they also may be caused by other, less serious health issues. Some esophageal cancer patients experience none of these signs, and others experience different symptoms entirely.

Next topic: What are the types of esophageal cancer?