Oesophageal cancer doesn't usually have any symptoms at first. But as the cancer grows, it can cause swallowing problems and other symptoms.

Difficulty swallowing

Difficulty swallowing is the most common symptom of oesophageal cancer.

The cancer can narrow the oesophagus, making it difficult for food to pass down. It may feel as though food is getting stuck and sometimes swallowing may be uncomfortable or painful.

You may have to chew your food more thoroughly, or you can only eat soft foods. If the tumour continues to grow, even liquids may become difficult to swallow.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of oesophageal cancer can include:

When to get medical advice

See your GP if you experience:

  • swallowing difficulties
  • heartburn on most days for three weeks or more
  • any other unusual or persistent symptoms

The symptoms can be caused by several conditions and in many cases won't be caused by cancer – but it's a good idea to get them checked out.

Read about how oesophageal cancer is diagnosed.

Page last reviewed: 04/07/2016

Next review due: 04/07/2019