Living with Adenocarcinoma, Esophagus Cancer

Living With Esophageal Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

Cancers of the esophagus are usually found because of the symptoms they cause. Diagnosis in people without symptoms is rare and usually accidental (because of tests are done for other medical problems). Unfortunately, most esophageal cancers do not cause symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage when they are harder to treat.

The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is a problem swallowing, with a feeling like the food is stuck in the throat or chest, or even choking on food. The medical term for trouble swallowing is dysphagia. This is often mild when it starts, and then gets worse over time as the opening inside the esophagus gets smaller. When swallowing becomes harder, people often change their diet and eating habits without realizing it. They take smaller bites and chew their food more carefully and slowly. As the cancer grows larger, the problem can get worse. People then might start eating softer foods that can pass through the esophagus more easily. They might avoid bread and meat, since these foods typically get stuck. The swallowing problem may even get bad enough that some people stop eating solid food completely and switch to a liquid diet. If the cancer keeps growing, at some point even liquids might be hard to swallow. To help pass food through the esophagus, the body makes more saliva. This causes some people to complain of bringing up lots of thick mucus or saliva.

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