The common, early esophageal cancer symptom is difficulty in swallowing. If untreated this typically leads to difficulty in eating, and thus, weight loss.
The cancer commonly spreads to other organs and tissues and causes accompanying esophagus cancer symptom clues.
The greatest risk factors for esophageal cancer are smoking and elevated alcohol consumption.
Diagnosis is typically performed by endoscopy which allows direct viewing of the esophagus tissue and for biopsy of the tissue at the surface of the esophagus.
Esophageal cancer symptoms:
- difficulty swallowing food and eventually liquids
- weight loss
- buildup of saliva in mouth
- voice irregularities (due to nerve compression)
- droopy eyelid, contracted pupil (due to nerve compression)
- hiccups (due to nerve compression)
- shortness of breath (if spread to lungs)
- fever, abdominal swelling (if spread to liver)
- bone pain (if spread to bones)
- headache, confusion, seizures (if spread to brain)
- vomiting, blood in stool, anemia (if spread to intestines)
In the majority of cases the cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis and thus the prognosis for esophageal cancer is poor.
Fewer than 1 in 20 individuals survive beyond 5 years following diagnosis.
Because of the very high death rate, treatment is usually aimed at improving the quality of the remaining lifespan.
In some cases surgical intervention is needed, but rarely cures, due to the spread of the cancer at time of treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation may also be used to relieve esophagus cancer symptoms and modestly prolong lifespan.