Esophageal cancer: What are the symptoms and major risk factors?

Esophageal cancer has risen over 733% in the past four decades and is considered one of the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States and western world. Esophageal has an overall five-year survival rate of 20.6% and stage IV has a survival rate of only 5.7%. There are no routine or standard screenings to detect esophageal cancer in its earlier stages.

Risk factors

While there are no known underlying causes of esophageal cancer, there are certain risk factors which can increase the chances of developing esophageal cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Unfortunately, esophageal cancer is often detected late as symptoms typically arise once the cancer grows and becomes more advanced. Remember, there are no routine screenings for esophageal cancer. Knowing the signs and symptoms is imperative. You should see your doctor immediately if you notice any of the symptoms listed below.

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing),
  • Chronic heartburn or indigestion,
  • Frequent choking while eating,
  • Chest pain, pressure or burning,
  • Unexplained weight loss,
  • Cough or hoarseness,
  • Vomiting,
  • Coughing up blood.

Awareness & Early Detection

Having one or all of the risk factors does not mean that one will develop esophageal cancer.  Also, not having any risk factors does not mean that one will never develop esophageal cancer.   Raising awareness of risk factors associated with esophageal cancer is one way to help reduce the incidence of an esophageal cancer diagnosis.  People who are considered to be at an elevated risk should speak with their doctor immediately about getting screened as early as possible.  Experts agree that early detection can improve the chances of survival if cancer is found in the esophagus.   There are also more treatment options available for early esophageal cancer and better outcomes.

Learn what tests are used to screen for esophageal cancer.

While we have an obligation to post the information on our website so that we can acquire the resources to change these statistics, we want to encourage those who are affected not to focus on the figures and rates and instead focus on treatment, receiving support from family and friends and taking each moment as it comes. Have faith and be strong!  To all who, like us, have lost a loved one to esophageal cancer, thank you for helping to make a difference in their memory!  

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. Content found on is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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