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Esophageal cancer is best addressed by a specialist, as it is a relatively uncommon form of cancer. Most types of esophageal cancer do not cause symptoms until they progress to an advanced stage, when there are usually fewer treatment options available. Furthermore, the initial warning signs of the condition are usually mild and nonspecific. Finally, there are currently no screening tests that are reliable enough to justify their routine use in the general public.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to learn about the signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer and to promptly bring anything questionable to the attention of a physician. This is your best defense – to ensure that the condition, should it develop, is detected and treated before it has a chance to spread. The most effective way to do so is to become familiar with your body and what is normal for you.

Some symptoms of esophageal cancer to watch for

If you experience possible symptoms of esophageal cancer, your physician may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Some common warning signs to be vigilant for include:

  • Swallowing difficulties, such as coughing, gagging, choking or feeling as if food has become lodged in your throat (dysphagia)
  • Burning sensations, pain or pressure in the middle of your chest (heartburn)
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Persistent coughing, hoarseness or hiccups

After reviewing your medical history, risk profile and symptoms, an esophageal cancer specialist may order one or more tests to assist with the diagnostic process. These tests might include an imaging scan (X-ray, CT, MRI or PET), upper endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, bronchoscopy or biopsy. If you are diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a specialist can then recommend a treatment plan that is appropriate for your individual needs.

Moffitt Cancer Center is a recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of gastrointestinal cancer. If you’d like to request a consultation with an esophageal cancer specialist in our renowned Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, you can do so with or without a referral. To get started, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.