What're symptoms of cancer of the esophagus?
Early detection of cancer of the esophagus is very difficult. The symptoms are very subtle and may go unnoticed until the cancer is advanced. Early-stage esophageal cancer may go unnoticed. The first symptom is usually difficulty in swallowing solid foods, which develops as the growing cancer narrows the esophagus. Several weeks later, swallowing soft foods and
then liquids becomes difficult. Weight loss is common, even when the person continues to eat well.
As the cancer progresses, it commonly invades various nerves and other tissues and organs. The tumor may compress the nerve that controls the vocal cords, which can lead to hoarseness. Compression of surrounding nerves may produce Horner's syndrome, pain, and hiccups. The cancer usually spreads to the lungs, where it may cause shortness of breath, and to the liver, where it may cause fever and abdominal swelling. Spread to bones may cause pain. Spread to the brain may produce headache, confusion, and seizures. Spread to the intestines may produce vomiting, blood in the stool, and iron-deficiency anemia. Spread to the kidneys often produces no symptoms. In late stages, the cancer may completely block the esophagus. Swallowing becomes impossible so that secretions build up in the mouth, which can be very distressing.
Dysphagia (trouble swallowing or a sensation of having food stuck in the throat or chest) is the most common symptom. Swallowing problems may occur occasionally at first, and patients often react by eating more slowly and chewing their food more carefully and, as the tumor grows, switching to soft foods or a liquid diet. Without treatment, the tumor will eventually prevent even liquid from passing into the stomach.
A sensation of burning or slight mid-chest pressure is a rare, often-disregarded symptom of esophageal cancer. Painful swallowing is usually a symptom of a large tumor obstructing the opening of the esophagus. It can lead to weight loss, physical wasting, and malnutrition.
More information on esophageal cancer
What is esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in tissues lining the hollow, muscular canal. Cancer of the esophagus is also called esophageal cancer.
What causes esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer can result after many years of irritation to the esophagus. The use of both alcohol and tobacco significantly increase risk.
What're the risk factors for esophageal cancer? - People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and drink alcohol are at a higher risk for this cancer. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include age, sex, alcohol use.
What're symptoms of cancer of the esophagus? - Early-stage esophageal cancer may have no symptoms. Dysphagia is the most common symptom. Spread to bones may cause pain.
How is esophageal cancer diagnosed? - A barium swallow is usually the first test performed on a patient whose symptoms suggest esophageal cancer.
What're the stages of esophageal cancer? - Staging esophageal cancer is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
What's the treatment for esophageal cancer? - Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient.
How to prevent esophageal cancer? - The best way to prevent esophageal cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol. Eating more fruits and vegetables.