Symptoms of esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Signs and symptoms often appear as the cancer thickens the wall of the esophagus. Esophageal tumours can also cause symptoms if they grow large enough to block the esophagus or the opening to the stomach, or if they grow into surrounding tissues and organs. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as esophageal cancer.

The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is having problems swallowing (dysphagia). Other signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include:

  • weight loss
  • painful swallowing
  • pain in the throat, chest (behind the breast bone) or back
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • bringing up undigested food
  • hoarseness
  • cough
  • nausea or vomiting
  • hiccups
  • malaise

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer. 2017.
  • Abbas G, Krasna M . Overview of esophageal cancer. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 2017.
  • Posner MC, Minsky BD, Ilson DH . Cancer of the esophagus. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 45:574-612.