Oesophageal cancer symptoms
Oesophageal cancer: risk factors
The cause of oesophageal cancer is not fully understood, but there are a number of risk factors. These include:
- achalasia, a condition where the muscles of the lower oesophageal sphincter (see image below) don’t relax properly and food builds up in the oesophagus (gullet);
- Barrett’s oesophagus (where acid-resistant cells like those in the stomach grow in the oesophagus);
- swallowing caustic agents;
- drinking large quantities of alcohol regularly; and
- eating nitrites or toxins from fungi.
Symptoms of oesophageal cancer
Many people do not experience any discomfort or noticeable symptoms early on with this cancer, however, as the cancer progresses the following symptoms may develop.
Difficult or painful swallowing that may be accompanied by a feeling that food or fluids are getting stuck in the throat. The difficulty swallowing is usually first noticed with solids and then progresses until there is difficulty swallowing soft foods and also liquids.
Weight loss is common because of the difficulty in swallowing food and liquids.
Regurgitation of food.
Pneumonia caused by food going down the airway instead of the oesophagus and getting into the lungs (doctors call this aspiration pneumonia).
Coughing, choking or hoarseness of the voice.
Chest pain, when swallowing or at other times.
If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis you should check with your doctor.
Last Reviewed: 06 August 2001