Early cancer of the esophagus is usually asymptomatic (i.e., does not cause symptoms). In as many as 50 percent of cases, the disease is locally advanced or has already spread (metastasized) at the time of diagnosis. Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include the following:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or painful swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Hoarseness or chronic cough
  • Iron-deficiency anemia (may be diagnosed through a blood test)
  • Pain in the throat, back, behind the breastbone (sternum), or between the shoulder blades
  • Severe weight loss
  • Vomiting

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015