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Oesophageal Patients Association
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Symptoms before diagnosis

Hi everyone :) what a great site you have here and thank you for allowing me to request some info from you that I hope will assist my situation with my dad. Could you tell me please what your earliest symptoms were and how they developed until you got medical attention and were diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Thank you so much. Wendy

11 Replies

Difficulty or pain with swallowing and food getting stuck in the chest area are symptoms that have often caused people to visit their GP. There are issues like persistent hiccups and / or indigestion that might also have occurred with some people, and sometimes unexplained weight loss. These tend to be signs of a tumour interfering with the passage of food.

Persistent heartburn and/or gastric oesophageal reflux is often relevant to oesophageal adenocarcinoma (comprising 70% of UK cases of oesophageal cancer in the UK) because there can be a progression to Barrett's Oesophagus, which is not cancer, but it is a condition that carries a risk of developing into dysplasia that can be a precursor condition. A person aged 30 with newly-developed Barrett's Oesophagus may have a risk of 11-25% of developing adenocarcinoma before the age of 80, but there are lots of variables. actionagainstheartburn.org.uk

Being referred by a GP for an endoscopy is a crucial stage in the diagnosis.

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I'd had heartburn for many years but never thought a lot about it .

My symptoms were food going down but then a choking sensation where I would gag ,produce thick syliva and usually manage to regurgitate food .

Waking in night coughing ,choking .

Doughy foodstuffs like bread were worst . Toast ok . Prawns VERY bad .

Started with the choking symptoms Novermbish and diagnosed in March .


Mine were weight loss then violent hiccups every time I ate anything and finally vomiting when trying to eat even the most soft food.

Good luck



My only symptom was food getting stuck low down in my oesophagus and having to cough it up. No pain, no heartburn, no weight loss. However, I had had mild oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus) 10 years previously and probably should have had it checked out more regularly.


Hi Wendy.

I was very lucky. The only symptom I had was a slight cough. Then I was prescribed some meds for a neurological condition and had a bad reaction, That left me with a tremor in all my muscles, including in my mouth, making it difficult to eat.. The meds were stopped, the tremor stopped. I was fine again. But an appointment had been made for an endoscopy, so I had it done anyway, and a very early T1 cancer was found. That was six years ago.



The symptoms in my case were quite long term in that I had had reflux for probably twenty years without fully understanding what it was. I just thought it was indigestion and tackled it with over the counter antacids and then when it got worse with Gaviscon.

For a long time my Doctor and I thought it might have been an ulcer or stress related (with having quite a stressful job in the long term)

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been suffering from a long bout of diarrhoea which wouldn't go away and an endoscopy revealed I had had Barretts' oesophagus in the long term and that cells had become cancerous. Within five months I had the Ivor Lewis two part Oesophagectomy operation. That was last September.

So really, my only symptoms were reflux but the Doctor didn't recognise it as such and so it continued to burn away my oesophagus!



Please do not rely on the Internet for accurate diagnosis.

The responses posted seem to pretty much cover it all. But getting a proper medical diagnosis along with CT & PET Scans and Endoscopy is really essential.

In my case (like most) my issues wee food getting stuck after I swallowed but before it got to my stomach.

My GP prescribed Omeperazole for indigestion. This despite my worsening condition and repeated visits. I eventually started to bleed. This was evident by black stools.

At this point I demanded a private referral. The consultant I saw is an expert in OC and was immediately "concerned" a CT scan followed by an Endoscopy confirmed both our fears.

I am considered "young" for OC. I was 57 when diagnosed. I am still told that statistically that is true.

I am now eighteen months post op and doing well.

If you are concerned? Go to a GP now and tell them what your concerns are. If still not happy then get a second opinion.

For clarity: I had no other symptoms outside of swallowing and bleeding. No cough, acid reflux or hiccups.

Good luck.


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Thank you Bruce, it seems everyone has a different variation on a theme. I start with the Barium Swallow on Thursday morning and go from there. Thank you again and I hope you continue to do really well.

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Hello Wendy

The intuition of loving relatives often proves to be remarkably accurate.

What is it about your Father that worries you?

What symptoms has he got?

How old is he?

Does he have any other medical conditions and if so what medication is he on?


Hello there gutlesswonder (I'm sure you are not?)

Thank you for your reply and yes I am worried. He has never smoked, drinks a little wine on special occasions, is 73 years old and apart from this intermittent difficulty swallowing, regurgitating food sometimes and feeling like food is stuck when he eats a normal size lunch or dinner. He says it's not too bad but he seems not too interested in eating much and this has been going on for a few weeks and I feel something needs to be done. I have made an appointment with his GP so we will see what happens. He only takes vitamin D, magnesium and Celebrex for some osteoarthritis in his knee...what do you think? Wendy


Thank you all of you for your responses to my query, I am feeling more informed now and am getting him along to the GP very soon, Wendy


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