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Cervical Esophageal Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Esophageal Cancer

In many cases, cervical esophageal cancers can get quite large before patients become aware of symptoms. The most common symptom is increasing difficulty with swallowing, but many other symptoms can also be present.

  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing in the throat: This can occur because a tumor is in the way of swallowing, and so it becomes difficult or painful to swallow. It will probably start out as difficulty with solid foods, and when the tumor grows into the esophagus, even liquids will be hard to get down. Also, there can be ulceration and bleeding as the tumor grows, causing pain.
  • Weight loss: As it becomes more and more difficult to swallow solid foods, patients often develop fairly severe weight loss. This is weight loss from the cancer using up lots of nutrients, but also because a patient is just not eating as much.
  • A lump in the neck: This will be a symptom of cervical esophageal cancer if it has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. This can be the first symptom that brings a patient to the doctor.
  • Ear pain (particularly on one side, with no other ear problems): Ear pain, also known as otalgia, happens because the nerves of the throat reach the brain through the same pathway as one of the nerves in the ear. Therefore, your brain might interpret a pain in the throat as coming from the ear. This is called referred pain. Consequently, unexplained ear pain that doesn’t go away should be evaluated by a specialist. It is important to understand that most causes of ear pain are due to simple problems such as middle ear infection or dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. TMJ pain due to a problem in the joint located in front of the ear may also present as otalgia.

Other possible symptoms might include:

  • A hoarse voice, especially if the cancer has invaded the nerves to the voice box
  • Coughing every time you drink liquids—this can happen if the cancer has invaded the nerves to the voice box or, very rarely, if the cancer has invaded the windpipe just behind the esophagus
  • Feeling like there’s something stuck in your throat
  • Bleeding (coughing or vomiting blood)

But don’t jump to any conclusions. You could have one or more of these symptoms but NOT have cervical esophageal cancer. There are several noncancerous causes of the same symptoms. That’s why you need to see a specialist.

References

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5 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Esophageal and Esophagogastric Junction Cancers V.2.2016. ©National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.

6 Modlin IM, Shapiro MD, Kidd M. An analysis of rare carcinoid tumors: clarifying these clinical conundrums. World J Surg. 2005 Jan;29(1):92-101.

7 Vinik, A. I., Thompson, N., Eckhauser, F., & Moattari, A. R. (1989). Clinical features of carcinoid syndrome and the use of somatostatin analogue in its management. Acta Oncologica, 28(3), 389-402.

8 Mariette C, Balon J-M, Piessen G, Fabre S, Van Seuningen I, Triboulet J-P. Pattern of recurrence following complete resection of esophageal carcinoma and factors predictive of recurrent disease. Cancer. 2003;97:1616-1623.

9 Key C and Meisner ALW. Chapter 3: Cancer of the Esophagus, Stomach, and Small Intestine. Ries LAG, Young JL, Keel GE, Eisner MP, Lin YD, Horner M-J (editors). SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer Survival Among Adults: U.S. SEER Program, 1988-2001, Patient and Tumor Characteristics. National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, NIH Pub. No. 07-6215, Bethesda, MD, 2007.