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Quick Facts

Esophageal Cancer

(Cancer of the Esophagus)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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The Esophagus

The Esophagus

What is esophageal cancer?

Cancer Overview of Cancer Cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells are the tiny building blocks of your body. Cells specialize in what they do. For example, your intestines have muscle cells to... read more is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells are the tiny building blocks of your body. Cells specialize in what they do. Different organs are made of different kinds of cells. Almost any kind of cell can become cancerous.

What causes esophageal cancer?

What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?

You may not notice symptoms right away. Early symptoms include:

  • Having a hard time swallowing food, because your esophagus gets narrower as the cancer grows

  • Weight loss

  • Chest pain, which you may also feel in your back

Later symptoms include:

  • Having trouble swallowing liquids and saliva

  • Hoarse voice

  • Pain in your spine

  • Hiccups

  • Shortness of breath

Eventually, the cancer blocks your esophagus, which stops you from swallowing and causes saliva to build up in your mouth.

How can doctors tell if I have esophageal cancer?

How do doctors treat esophageal cancer?

If the cancer is small, doctors may be able to burn it or cut it out with surgery to try to cure you.

Most of the time, treatments for esophageal cancer help with symptoms such as pain and problems swallowing. Treatments include:

Getting enough nutrition is important. If you can swallow, you may get special liquid nutrition shakes. If you can’t swallow, you may need to be fed through a tube in your belly.

Having esophageal cancer can be scary and upsetting. Your doctor may offer you support to help you deal with your symptoms and emotions and plan for the end of your life, such as making a living will Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more .

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