Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
Symptoms may not appear until esophageal cancer is in advanced stages. If you any experience symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Many symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a gastric ulcer. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.
The most common symptoms of esophageal cancer are difficulty swallowing (dysphasia) and weight loss. Dysphagia may be with or without pain. As food moves down the esophagus, there may be a sensation that food is stuck. There may be a tight feeling in the chest behind the breastbone or in the throat. Over time, it becomes progressively harder to swallow. Solid foods will be difficult at first, then semi-solid foods, then even liquids will be difficult.
As eating becomes more difficult, the body does not get all the nutrients it needs. Noticeable weight loss occurs in almost all people who have esophageal cancer in a period of months.
Since esophageal cancer is generally found in advanced stages, there may be other symptoms in addition to the ones listed above. These may include:
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Esophageal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/esophageal-cancer. Updated July 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003098-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2017.
General information about esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/esophageal/patient/esophageal-treatment-pdq#section/all. Updated July 19, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD Last Updated: 3/10/2021