Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs

Not ready to share? Read other Patient Comments

What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?

Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously.Patient Comments FAQs

Enter your Comment

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users. (Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient: Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!

I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

Please select the white triangle:

What are the symptoms and signs of esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer tends not to be associated with symptoms until it grows large enough to narrow the esophagus and make it difficult for food to pass. This also means there is time and opportunity for the cancer to grow beyond the esophagus and spread (metastasize) either to surrounding tissues or to distant parts of the body before it is discovered.

Esophageal Cancer Symptoms

The first symptom of esophageal cancer is almost always dysphagia (dys=abnormal + phagia=swallowing). Initially there may be difficulty swallowing solid foods, but symptoms worsen so there may also problems swallowing liquids.

Patients with esophageal cancer also can present with unexplained weight loss which occurs in more than half of patients. Esophageal cancers bleed and may cause vomiting of blood or black, tarry stools. Pain from esophageal cancer can be felt in the lower chest or upper abdomen. If the cancer has spread there may be pain in other places around the chest or back.

Patients may experience voice hoarseness due to vocal cord damage caused by reflux of stomach acid into the throat. As the tumor grows, it may cause nerve damage. The cancer can affect the recurrent laryngeal nerve that helps control the vocal cords. The nerve runs close to the esophagus, so if cancer spreads to the nerve, it means the cancer has grown beyond the esophagus wall.

Esophageal Cancer Signs

Physical examination may not be helpful in making the diagnosis; the esophagus is hidden within the chest cavity and not easily evaluated by physical examination. That is the reason why patient history is so important in making the diagnosis and all complaints of difficulty swallowing should be taken seriously.

If the cancer has metastasized beyond the esophagus, there may be abnormal lymph nodes palpable in the neck below the jaw or above the clavicles (collarbones). If cancer has spread to the liver, the liver may become enlarged and may be palpated on examination of the abdomen.

Return to Esophageal Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Texmar63, 65-74 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 06

My sister who is 68 was diagnosed last April with esophageal cancer. Her symptoms started as shortness of breath and feeling like something was stuck in her throat. She was always a smoker but after having bypass surgery about 6 years ago, she tried to quit and then was using the e-cigarettes when she was diagnosed. She started chemotherapy last May and continued till about November. She couldn't do radiation because the doctor said it would affect the bypass grafts. She became so sick from chemotherapy that he decided to stop it right after Thanksgiving. She is still very weak and was admitted to hospital this last weekend because of fluid in her lungs causing one lung to nearly collapse. She now has to have oxygen to help her breathe. This is a horrible disease and just keep hoping for a miracle to cure her.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Daphne May, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 13

I am a 56 year old female. About 2 years before I was diagnosed with esophageal carcinoma I noticed my hair was thinning fast. I also noticed an ache type pain in my chest that would go through to my back. At that time I thought it was anxiety. The following year I felt angry & depressed, not my usual self! Then September 2014 I started to have trouble swallowing food, especially bread! It was painful and got worse by Christmas. I was diagnosed with esophageal carcinoma on 16/1/15. They thought it was stage 1-2. I started chemotherapy and radiation for 6 weeks. Then I had a 3 stage esophagectomy and found out the cancer was stage 3 B. I have just finished 3 months of chemotherapy &and am due for a CT scan in a few weeks, fingers crossed! To anyone else who is going down the same path, you are not alone, there are others of us going through the same thing. Never give up hope, be brave and do your homework, find the best doctors!

Was this comment helpful?Yes


Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!