Unfortunately, esophageal cancer does not typically cause noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed to a late stage when they are harder to treat. Diagnosis in people without symptoms is rare and usually accidental (because of tests done for other medical problems).
- Trouble swallowing. The most common symptom is difficulty swallowing, or a feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest. The medical term for having trouble swallowing is dysphagia. As the cancer progresses, liquids might even become hard to swallow.
- Weight loss. Patients may also experience unintended weight loss. This is because problems swallowing prevent them from eating enough food. About half of people with esophageal cancer lose weight without trying to. Other factors include a decreased appetite and an increase in metabolism from the cancer.
- Chest pain. Patients sometimes experience pain or a burning sensation in the mid-chest region.
- Other symptoms
In people with advanced esophageal cancer, symptoms may also include:
- Hoarseness of the voice
- Chronic cough
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
- Bone pain
- Bleeding from the esophagus
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your physician. The symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it is important to see your doctor for an examination to determine the cause of these symptoms.