Symptoms and Signs of Esophageal Cancer (Cancer of the Esophagus)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Esophageal Cancer (Cancer of the Esophagus)

Esophageal cancer is a disease where the tissues of the esophagus (the tube-like structure that connects the throat to the stomach) start to grow abnormally and become malignant. There are two major types of esophageal cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, which arises from the surface (epithelial) cells that line the esophagus, and adenocarcinoma arises from the esophageal glands or within a segment of Barrett's esophagus. Although tumors can develop anywhere in the esophagus, adenocarcinomas appears more frequently in the lower portion while squamous cell carcinoma develops more frequently in the upper portion of the esophagus.

Symptoms of esophageal cancer may not occur until the disease is at an advanced stage and may include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, central chest pain and/or pain behind the breastbone, pain upon swallowing, vomiting, chronic cough, hoarseness, and symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding such as black stools or vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.