Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?

Often, an early stage of esophageal cancer has no symptoms. Symptoms do not appear until the disease is more advanced. The following are the most common symptoms of esophageal cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing – a condition known as dysphagia, which is the most common symptom of esophageal cancer and gives a sensation of having food lodged in the chest. Persons with dysphagia often switch to softer foods to help with swallowing.
  • Pain in the throat or back, behind the breastbone or between the shoulder blades.
  • Severe weight loss – many persons with esophageal cancer lose weight unintentionally because they are not getting enough food.
  • Hoarseness or chronic cough.
  • Vomiting.
  • Coughing up blood.

The symptoms of esophageal cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

There is no routine screening examination for esophageal cancer; however, persons with Barrett’s esophagus should be examined often since they are at greater risk for developing the disease.