The clinical symptoms of esophageal cancer

The clinical symptoms of esophageal cancer are as follows:

The early symptoms of the disease are mild and intermittent, and can disappear without treatment in a short period of time, which often leads to negligence by patients and physicians.

The clinical symptoms of esophageal cancer
The clinical symptoms of esophageal cancer

The early symptoms in patients are as follows:

  • Feeling of choking while swallowing, with the frequency and intensity of the choking sensation gradually increasing.
  • Pain in the esophagus or behind the sternum while swallowing, which can be a burning, stabbing, pulling, or rubbing sensation. This condition may occur repeatedly. Sometimes the pain occurs in the upper abdomen.
  • Feeling of a foreign object in the esophagus, as if food is sticking to the esophageal wall and cannot be swallowed.
  • Slow passage of food with a feeling of obstruction.
  • Dryness and tightness in the throat.
  • Feeling of bloating behind the sternum.

Progressive dysphagia is a typical symptom of middle to late-stage esophageal cancer. The progression of this symptom varies greatly depending on the type of cancer. Factors such as local infection, improper diet, or excessive fatigue can exacerbate the dysphagia symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms can improve significantly after anti-inflammatory treatment, short-term fasting, or fluid administration. Therefore, dysphagia severity alone cannot be used to determine the early or late stage of cancer.

Patients with dysphagia should consider the possibility of esophageal cancer with metastatic lymph nodes in the collarbone area if they notice enlarged lymph nodes in that region. The disease progression may range from being unable to eat regular food to having difficulty swallowing soft food or noodles, and eventually even being unable to drink thin soup or clear water.The accompanying symptom of choking is vomiting mucus, which is the reflux of saliva and esophageal secretions that cannot enter the stomach due to obstruction. If respiratory aspiration occurs, it can lead to choking and pneumonia.

The difficulty in eating places patients in a chronic state of hunger, which inevitably leads to dehydration and malnutrition. Patients experience significant weight loss, become thin and weak, and display a cachectic appearance. If there is ulceration, inflammation, or tumor invasion in the affected esophageal segment, patients may experience persistent dull pain in the chest and back. If the pain is severe and accompanied by fever, it is reason for suspicion of impending or existing perforation. If the tumor invades adjacent organs and causes perforation, it can lead to tracheoesophageal fistula, mediastinal abscess, pneumonia, pulmonary abscess, and aortic perforation with massive hemorrhage, which can be fatal. Other late-stage symptoms include hoarseness due to tumor compression of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, swollen superficial lymph nodes, pain caused by bone metastasis, and hepatomegaly and jaundice caused by liver metastasis. Doctors should determine the treatment plan based on the patient’s condition.

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