ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?

Question

What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?

What symptoms would we see in a person with esophageal cancer? I know I'm probably overreacting, but some of my recent troubles with eating and swallowing have me really worried.

Answer

Esophageal cancer usually is diagnosed after a patient presents with difficult swallowing. As a tumor grows inside the esophagus, a patient will usually complain first of progressive difficulty taking down solid food, and then ultimately difficulty with liquids as well. Tumor growth may also lead to pain as local nerves are irritated, and this pain may be worse with swallowing. As a result of this difficulty and painful swallowing, patients will often take in less food and lose a significant amount of weight. Additionally, patients may experience regurgitation of food from difficulty swallowing, as well as nausea and vomiting. At advanced stages of esophageal cancer, patients may experience a hoarse voice, and connections between the esophagus and trachea may form. If the tumor erodes into a blood vessel, patients may throw up blood. Esophageal cancer is not the most common cause of difficulty with eating and swallowing. There are several treatable disorders of the esophagus that can cause these symptoms, and you should talk to your primary care physician about these problems. An initial non-invasive test that may help determine the cause of your symptoms is a barium swallow. In this test, a person drinks a substance called barium, and a continuous x-ray video is then taken the barium is swallowed. This lets the doctors visualize an outline of the esophagus and stomach.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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