What Are the Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?

In the early stages of esophageal cancer, when it is still only in the esophagus, it is usually asymptomatic. Asymptomatic means 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, like indigestion. You may be tempted to ignore symptoms. Here is a list of possible early symptoms of esophageal cancer:

  • Difficulty swallowing (especially dry solid foods, such as meat, bread, or raw vegetables)

  • Pressure or burning in the chest after swallowing

  • A feeling that food is stuck in your throat

  • Weight loss

  • Heartburn

  • Indigestion

  • Frequent choking

As esophageal cancer worsens, symptoms can become more severe:

  • 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 from 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.