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Symptoms of oesophageal cancer

Main symptoms of oesophageal cancer

There are many possible symptoms of oesophageal cancer, but they might be hard to spot.

They can affect your digestion, such as:

Other symptoms include:

  • a cough that is not getting better
  • a hoarse voice
  • loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
  • feeling tired or having no energy
  • pain in your throat or the middle of your chest, especially when swallowing
  • black poo or coughing up blood (although these are uncommon)

If you have another condition, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, you may get symptoms like these regularly.

You might find you get used to them. But it's important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you're being sick for more than 2 days
  • your poo is black or dark red
  • you have symptoms of oesophageal cancer you're worried about, but are not sure where to get help

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have problems swallowing
  • you've lost a noticeable amount of weight
  • you have heartburn most days that lasts for 3 weeks or more
  • you have symptoms of oesophageal cancer that get worse
  • you have a condition that causes digestion symptoms and they're not getting better with your usual treatments


These symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions.

Having them does not definitely mean you have oesophageal cancer. But it's important to get them checked by a GP.

This is because if they're caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable.

What happens at the GP appointment

The GP may feel your neck and tummy.

They might arrange for you to have a blood test.

The GP may refer you to see a specialist in hospital for more tests if they think you have a condition that needs to be investigated.

They may also refer you straight to hospital for a test to look inside your oesophagus.

This may be an urgent referral, usually within 2 weeks, if you have certain symptoms. This does not definitely mean you have cancer.

Page last reviewed: 29 June 2023
Next review due: 29 June 2026