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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Esophageal cancer symptoms

Esophageal cancer is often difficult to detect in its early stages. Many signs may be dismissed as common digestive problems, so it’s important to seek the advice of a physician if you have esophageal cancer symptoms that persist for several weeks.

cancer symptoms

Common esophageal cancer symptoms

The most common signs of esophageal cancer 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 esophageal cancer, 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. Typically, the first symptom of esophageal cancer 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 cancer grows, it generally worsens and may eventually lead to an inability to swallow liquid.

Esophageal cancer is not commonly diagnosed until a patient experiences symptoms. If a doctor suspects esophageal cancer, 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.

Last Revised: 10/09/2015

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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