Esophageal Cancer Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer

There are many esophageal cancer symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms of esophageal cancer, consult your doctor. Unfortunately, the disease is often diagnosed when the disease has advanced, limiting treatment options.

What is Cancer?

Cancer can start any place in the body. It starts when cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. This makes it hard for the body to work the way it should and causes problems in the part of the body where the cancer started.

Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body. For instance, cancer cells in the lung can travel to the bones and grow there. When cancer cells spread, it’s called metastasis. When lung cancer spreads to the bones, it’s still called lung cancer. To doctors, the cancer cells in the bones look just like the ones from the lung. It’s not called bone cancer unless it started in the bones.

Some cancers grow and spread fast. Others grow more slowly. They also respond to treatment in different ways. Some types of cancer are best treated with surgery; others respond better to drugs called chemotherapy. Often two or more treatments are used to get the best results.

When someone has cancer, the doctor will want to find out what kind of cancer it is. People with cancer need treatment that works for their type of cancer.

Here are the signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer:

Unintentional Weight Loss

man coughing into napkin
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If you aren't trying to lose weight and have noticed you have been or are losing weight, you should consult your doctor. Unintentional weight loss can mean many things, but it is better to have it checked out.

Pain and/or Difficulty Swallowing

Pain or difficulty in swallowing is one of the most common symptoms of esophageal cancer. The throat feels irritated or with pressure. This symptom is not associated with flu or flu-related illnesses. The pain or difficulty swallowing related with esophageal cancer does not go away.


If your voice is hoarse, or you feel like you have to often clear your throat, you should get checked out by a doctor. This symptom of esophageal cancer is also that of many other illnesses, so a consult is necessary.

Persistent Cough

Having a cough that does not go away is a symptom of esophageal cancer.


Having heartburn often is also a symptom of esophageal cancer. Heartburn is defined as pain or burning sensation behind the breastbone. Heartburn that occurs often or increasingly warrants a consult to the doctor.

Feeling Like Food is Stuck in Throat or Chest

In certain cases of esophageal cancer, the esophagus narrows, thus reducing the space foods have to travel down to the stomach. The sensation of food being stuck in the throat or chest is that of esophageal cancer.

Hiccups with Pain or Difficulty Swallowing

If you often have the hiccups and also have pain or difficulty swallowing, you need to see a doctor. These two conditions when experienced together are a symptom of esophageal cancer.


National Cancer Institute: Esophageal Cancer PDQ
American Cancer Society: Esophageal Cancer, Detailed Guide