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What Are the Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?

Man with pained expression loosening his tie

In the early stages of esophageal cancer, when it is still only in the esophagus, it is usually asymptomatic, meaning it doesn't cause symptoms. When the cancer has spread to nearby areas (called locally advanced), there may be minor symptoms. In those cases, you may think that the symptoms are caused by something else, such as indigestion. You may be tempted to ignore them. Here is a list of early symptoms of esophageal cancer:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Pressure or burning while swallowing

  • A feeling that food is stuck in your throat

  • Weight loss

  • Heartburn

  • Indigestion

  • Frequent choking

As esophageal cancer worsens, symptoms become more severe:

  • Difficulty eating dry solid foods, such as meat, bread, or raw vegetables

  • Difficulty swallowing liquids

  • Trouble swallowing saliva

  • Hoarseness

  • Coughing

  • Vomiting

  • Coughing or vomiting up blood

  • Feeling a lump on your neck, collarbone, or under your arm

  • Difficulty breathing

Any of these minor and more severe symptoms may be due to esophageal cancer. Any of these symptoms may also be caused by other less serious medical problems, such as ulcers or blood vessel problems. Talk with your health care provider right away to help find out and treat the cause of your symptoms.


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