What are the warning signs of esophageal cancer?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

The esophagus is the tube that runs from your throat to the stomach. Chewed and swallowed food travels down the tube, eventually passing through a ring of sphincter muscle before entering the acid-rich stomach. Normally this muscle remains contracted and tight to keep acidic stomach contents from moving upwards. But if the sphincter pressure is lax, acid can come into contact with the sensitive lining of the esophagus. While occasional heartburn can be uncomfortable, it is unlikely that it will cause cancer. But up the ante and the constant assault of acid flowing backwards that is typical of untreated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can seriously damage the cells of the esophagus. Over time, the erosion takes its toll and the cells of the esophagus become abnormal (Barrett esophagus) putting a person at risk for cancer.

Warning-bell checklist for esophageal cancer:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Indigestion
  • Chest Pain
  • Weight Loss

This content originally appeared on

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.