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Symptoms of esophageal cancer

  • Dysphagia is the most common primary symptom. It usually occurs when 1/2 to 2/3 of the circumference of the esophagus is infiltrated with tumor tissue. This symptom is therefore present later in the disease course. In the beginning, dysphagia is often temporary. Some patients have such difficulty swallowing that they are only able to take liquid food.
  • Reflux dyspepsia
  • Pain in the esophagus occurs frequently. 
  • Fistulas in the respiratory tract and to the chest cavity can occur in advanced stages.
  • Spreading to the pleura can cause pleural effusion and dyspnea.

Traditionally, patients with squamous esophageal cancer were underweight. As the diagnosis is made earlier in the disease course, and patients with intestinal dysplasia develop esophageal cancer, many of the patients today are overweight. 

About 50% of all patients diagnosed with cancer based on these symptoms are inoperable. In order for the disease to be operable, the diagnosis must be made when dyspepsia is the only symptom. 

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