How long can you have esophageal cancer and not know it? (2023)

Esophageal cancer is an extremely rare type of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, you only have a 1% chance of developing it. Although this cancer is rare in the United States, it is relatively more common in other parts of the world. Alcohol and smoking are common factors that can increase the risk of developing this cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with an esophageal tumor, your chances of survival will depend on the stage of the cancer. Early detection of this cancer can significantly increase survival. Since this cancer starts in the esophagus, you may not notice any symptoms until it develops in the body. However, if you feel discomfort when swallowing, this may be a sign that cancer is developing.

So, if you think you have this cancer, be sure to see your doctor and get the recommended tests done to get definitive answers. Here you will find whatesophageal canceri.e. its early symptoms in men and women, its causes, treatment and everything else you need to know about it.

Understanding what esophageal cancer is

First, before examining the signs and causes of this cancer, it becomes necessary to understand what exactly esophageal cancer is. As mentioned earlier, esophageal cancer is a relatively rare cancer that occurs in the esophagus. For those unfamiliar with the term esophagus, the long, hollow food tube or tube runs from the mouth to the stomach. This tube carries food from the mouth to the stomach so it can be digested efficiently.

It occurs in the tissues of the esophagus and can start anywhere in the digestive tract. Statistically, esophageal cancer is more common in men than in women. Usually, in the early stages of this cancer, the doctor will resort to surgery to relieve symptoms and remove tumors. On the other hand, if the patient is in an advanced or late stage of this cancer, the doctor may resort to treatments such as radiotherapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy.

For people whose cancer has no cure, healthcare professionals will use treatments that can help ease the diseasesymptoms of esophageal cancer, help people live longer and maintain quality of life. Many researchers are working to find treatments that help people with cancer live longer.

How does esophageal cancer kill and affect the body?

Before we talk about how this cancer kills you, it is important to know how it affects your body and causes abnormalities in your body. Esophageal cancer begins with the multiplication of cancer cells present in the tissue of the esophagus. These cancer cells continue to multiply, forming a tumor near the affected area. This cancer spreads quickly and is often called an aggressive cancer. However, a person can ignore this cancer until it spreads.

Esophageal cancer goes unnoticed for a long time because it stretches to make room for large portions of food, and a person may only notice it when the growing tumor actually interferes with the optimal functioning of the digestive tract. Tumor growth can block the opening of the esophagus, causing difficulty or pain when swallowing.

Now back to the topic: how does esophageal cancer kill you? As mentioned earlier, this cancer starts in the esophagus. However, in many cases, esophageal cancer can spread to the liver, causing fever and an abnormal enlargement of the liver called hepatomegaly. When cancer affects the lungs, there may be a chronic cough, pleurisy (a build-up of fluid in the membrane surrounding the lungs) and shortness of breath.

On the other hand, esophageal cancer that has spread to the bones can cause bone pain. This cancer spreads to the brain, causing confusion, headaches and seizures. Now you know why esophageal cancer is so deadly.

Let's look at the types of esophageal cancer:


This type of esophageal cancer is quite common in the US and develops in the tissue that produces the mucus that helps you swallow food. It usually affects the lower part of the esophagus.

Squamous cell cancer

This type of esophageal cancer develops in the lining of the digestive tract. In addition, squamous cell carcinoma usually affects the middle and upper esophagus.

Is esophageal cancer curable?

Now that you know how esophageal cancer can affect your body and potentially kill you, you may want to know if esophageal cancer can be cured. The answer to this question in one word is no; esophageal cancer cannot be cured. However, this cancer is treatable and many people survive with timely treatment. This increases the importance of spotting the early signs of this cancer.

If your doctor diagnoses cancer at an early stage, there is a good chance of a complete cure. However, in most cases, patients are diagnosed with this cancer when it has already spread or is in an advanced stage. In the later stages, the doctor will only be able to treat the cancer. There is a very rare chance that your doctor will be able to cure your cancer.

Although there is no cure for esophageal cancer, your doctor can help you manage your symptoms so that you can manage it well at your level. The cancer may come back, during which time your doctor will use other treatments to help you deal with the cancer.

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How long can you have esophageal cancer and not know it?

There is no simple answer to how long you can have esophageal cancer without knowing it. Generally, cancer can remain in the body for months or years before it is detected. As for esophageal cancer, symptoms are difficult to spot in the early stages, so you may not know you have it until it has spread throughout your body. Although there is no concrete answer, this cancer can remain in the body for about four to five years and go unnoticed.

Therefore, if you notice the symptoms of esophageal cancer, which we will discuss later, we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of this cancer is very important to prevent it from worsening and increasing suffering.

What are the early symptoms of esophageal cancer? Symptoms of esophageal cancer

First, you need to understand that there are no early signs of esophageal cancer. Therefore, if you are looking for the first symptom of esophageal cancer, you must know that you will not find satisfactory results in this topic. However, although they are not considered early symptoms, the first symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing food. In addition, some patients with this tumor can even choke on food.

These early symptoms will worsen as the esophagus narrows as the cancer develops. While difficulty swallowing is usually the first symptom, there are a number of other symptoms of this cancer, including:

  • Pain in the back or throat, between the shoulder blades or behind the sternum.
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood.
  • Chronic cough or hoarseness.
  • Asia.
  • Unexpected weight loss.
  • aggravation of indigestion

Symptoms of esophageal cancer are the same in men and women. In general, the process of diagnosis and treatment is the same for both sexes.

What are the signs of death from esophageal cancer?

Earlier we mentioned the early signs and symptoms of this cancer. However, these symptoms only affect people in the early stages of esophageal cancer. In people with late or terminal cancer, symptoms can be very different from those in advanced and early stages.

Symptoms of death or end-stage esophageal cancer include:

  • Sore throat and cough that gets worse.
  • Increased head covering and difficulty speaking.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Pain in the joints and bones.
  • Bleeding from the esophagus leads to the presence of blood in the stool and in the digestive tract.
  • Shortness of breath, abnormal or labored breathing.
  • hiccups
  • Fatigue and anemia due to blood loss from cancer treatment and medications or side effects of medications.

How does esophageal cancer occur? Causes of esophageal cancer

So, after knowing the symptoms of early and late stages of esophageal cancer in men and women, the next thing to pay attention to is the causes of esophageal cancer. Although health professionals are not sure exactly what causes this cancer, several risk factors can lead a person to develop esophageal cancer. The risk of esophageal cancer includes:

  • Use of alcohol:The risk of developing esophageal cancer is higher if you drink alcohol regularly and are a frequent or chronic drinker.
  • Use of tobacco:Using tobacco products, such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, can increase the risk of this type of cancer.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus):It is a common virus that causes changes in the tissues of the hands, genitals and feet as well as in the mouth and vocal cords.
  • Obesity:Obesity or being overweight makes you prone to inflammation of the digestive tract. This inflammation can later develop into cancer.
  • Chronic gastric reflux and Barrett's esophagus:A condition such as Barrett's esophagus occurs when cells change in the lower part of the digestive tract. This is usually the result of untreated chronic acid reflux.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals:If your job involves working with dry cleaning solvents for long periods of time, you have a high chance of developing this cancer.
  • Dear Witness:If you have had head or neck cancer before, your risk of developing this cancer is higher.
  • Other disorders:This cancer is associated with hereditary and rare diseases. Achalasia is a rare disease that can make eating, for example, difficult. In addition, we suffer from tylosis, a rare hereditary disease that causes excessive skin growth on the palms and soles.

Is esophageal cancer hereditary?

Well, when we talk about the risk factors and causes of esophageal cancer, you may have doubts whether this cancer is hereditary or not. The answer to this question is that inherited genetic mutations that your family runs through rarely cause this cancer. As we mentioned, achalasia and tylosis are rare hereditary conditions that can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer. However, you will never get this cancer just because someone in your family has it.

Esophageal cancer, on the other hand, is part of acquired genetic mutations, which often happens in people who develop this cancer. In fact, the genetic mutations that cause cancer are mostly part of acquired mutations. So if you have this cancer, it will only happen in your lifetime. And this condition will not be passed on to your children, otherwise they will be at risk of developing this disease because of you.

Based on this, we can conclude that esophageal cancers, which arise as a result of a DNA mutation, are acquired during an individual's lifetime and are not inherited. In most cases, the main risk factors that can lead to these conditions are alcohol and tobacco consumption. However, so far we do not have any specific cause that can cause esophageal cancer.

Diagnosis of esophageal cancer: How is esophageal cancer diagnosed?

Now let's look at how health professionals diagnose esophageal cancer in a person. This usually depends on the symptoms and medical history of the patient with this cancer. Depending on this information, your doctor may use different tests to diagnose your current health condition:

Computed tomography

A CT scan helps doctors see if tumors have spread to the abdomen and chest.

barn swallow

This test helps the doctor examine the esophagus by taking several X-rays. The reason this test is known as a barium swallow is because this test requires the consumption of a liquid that contains barium. This fluid makes it easier for the doctor to see the esophagus on an X-ray.


Esophagogastroduodenoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope to help the doctor look inside the esophagus.


During an EGD, your doctor may remove a small piece of tissue to later examine under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.

After the diagnosis, based on the results, the doctor will classify the cancer into different stages. The stage of the cancer will determine whether your condition is primary, advanced, or late.

Also, the stage of the cancer depends on factors such as the depth and location of the tumor, whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and whether the tumor has spread to distant organs or tissues.

In addition, your doctor also determines the stage of the cancer. These notes help determine where these cancer cells are working and what healthy cells look like. Usually, low-grade tumors spread slowly and grow slowly. At the same time, high-grade tumors contain aggressive cells that spread and grow rapidly.

Timeline of esophageal cancer progression: esophageal cancer staging and survival rates

Before we start treating this cancer, it is important to understand how cancers in different stages differ from each other. By understanding what stage this means, you will learn how to face your situation more openly. Speaking of the timeline of esophageal cancer development, this cancer is divided into four stages ranging from 0 to IV.

In the first stage of esophageal cancer, the cancer affects only the lining of the digestive tract. Furthermore, this stage is relatively easy to treat and has a high survival rate. However, in other stages where the cancer spreads to other parts of the body and affects organs and tissues, treating and curing this condition can be difficult. So, let's take a look at the stages of esophageal cancer so you know your stage better:

Etap 0

This is the primary stage of esophageal cancer. If you are diagnosed with cancer at this stage, your chances of a full recovery are quite high. This stage means that the cancer has not yet spread to other organs or parts of the body. It also means that the cancer is in its early stages of development, so you will not experience any symptoms at this stage.

When it comes to survival rates for stage 0 esophageal cancer, about 80 to 90 percent of cancer patients diagnosed with stage 0 esophageal cancer survive five years after treatment.

On the stage

At this stage, the tumor has spread deeper into the tissues of the esophagus. However, the cancer has not yet spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with stage I cancer is 34%.

Stage II

In the case of advanced-stage esophageal cancer, when the cancer has spread to the wall of the esophagus and deeper tissues, there is a high probability that it will affect the lymph nodes near the digestive tract. For those diagnosed with stage II cancer, the five-year survival rate is 17%.

Etap III

The stage just before the final stage of esophageal cancer, in which the cancer has spread beyond the wall of the esophagus and nearby adjacent tissues to the lymph nodes. However, the tumor has not yet spread to other organs. Typical symptoms of this stage are difficulty swallowing and sore throat. Patients who undergo radiotherapy and chemotherapy for stage III cancer have a chance of survival of three to five years. At this stage, the survival rate is 20 to 30 percent.

Phase IV

At this stage, the cancer has metastasized and spread to other parts of the body. Since this is the last stage of esophageal cancer, it is very difficult to treat this condition. For this reason, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with stage IV cancer is only 2.8%.

The stage of the cancer plays a significant role in deciding the appropriate treatment for your condition. Depending on the stage of the disease, the health care professional will introduce different treatments to relieve the symptoms and cure the disease. In the next section, we will look at these treatments.

Esophageal cancer treatment: what are the treatments for esophageal cancer?

So, as mentioned earlier, the treatment your doctor will offer you for esophageal cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and its grade. Now let's look at the available treatment options for esophageal cancer:


A popular method of cancer treatment is to use a beam of radiation to target tumors or cancer cells. These beams help eliminate or damage cancer cells in the body. Also, your doctor may use this medicine as an additional therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells in your body. This means you can do it before and after radiotherapy.

ESD (Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection)

ESD is well-known among surgeons for treating patients with early-stage esophageal cancer. Your doctor may consider this therapy if you have lower-stage cancer.


A doctor may perform an esophagectomy, a well-known treatment for early-stage esophageal cancer. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove some or most of the surrounding tissue and esophagus. The surgeon will then develop a new digestive tract by pulling part of the stomach into the neck and chest.

EMR (Endoscopic mucosal resection)

A surgeon may use this treatment to remove a tumor from the lining of the esophagus. It is best known in patients with early stage esophageal cancer.


This treatment helps eliminate cancer cells and prevent their growth. It is usually given to patients undergoing radiotherapy.


In this therapy, the doctor will use immune checkpoint inhibitors so that the immune system can eliminate the cancer cells from the body. The purpose of these drugs is to help restore the immune system's response to gastrointestinal cancer cells.

endoscopic laser therapy

This therapy helps relieve symptoms where tumors block the esophagus, making it difficult to eat.

targeted therapy

Sometimes some esophageal cancer cells contain high levels of the HER2 protein. This protein is responsible for the growth of cancer cells. Using targeted therapy, your doctor will help treat this cancer with drugs that target this protein.

PDT (photodynamic therapy)

This therapy uses photosensitizing drugs. Photodynamic therapy with these drugs helps destroy tumors. The light activates these drugs and starts a chemical reaction that eliminates the cancer.

How can I manage my condition after receiving Treamtent/S?

Side effects such as vomiting, nausea or heartburn may occur after treatment of the esophagus. These side effects are temporary, but you may need your doctor's help to manage them. Typically, people who have undergone cancer treatment may experience the following problems:

difficulty eating

After this procedure, a person may have difficulty eating or feel pain when swallowing food, which may lead to weight loss. Although treatment may help to remove the tumor, you may still have trouble swallowing. Your doctor may suggest things like eating smaller meals and taking nutritional supplements.

damping syndrome

This is common in people whose stomach has been replaced by their esophagus. Your stomach may have difficulty holding down food to facilitate digestion, causing food to pass quickly into the intestines. These symptoms include diarrhea, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, or flushing.

As esophageal cancer recurs, you should make some lifestyle changes, including limiting your alcohol intake and quitting smoking. If you can, stop smoking, because it is the main cause of this cancer. Ask your doctor for help if you want to quit smoking.

Esophageal cancer prevention: how to prevent esophageal cancer?

Although there are many treatments for esophageal cancer, there is always a risk that the cancer will return. Also, in most cases, you may not even know you have esophageal cancer until the cancer is in an advanced or late stage. Therefore, it is extremely important to know how to prevent esophageal cancer. But the question is, can esophageal cancer be prevented?

Although it is not possible to completely prevent all types of esophageal cancer, you can certainly reduce your risk of developing it by avoiding risk factors for this cancer.

Try not to drink alcohol or use tobacco products

One of the biggest risk factors for esophageal cancer in the United States is smoking and alcohol. A person using any of these can significantly increase their risk of developing this cancer. Also, if someone smokes and drinks, the risk of developing this type of cancer increases even more. Therefore, if you want to prevent this cancer, avoid alcohol and tobacco products as much as possible.

Maintain a proper diet, body weight and regular physical activity

In addition to not smoking or drinking alcohol, it is extremely important to watch your diet and weight. A healthy, nutritious diet with vegetables and fruits can help reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. In addition, attention should be paid to obesity, because it is associated with esophageal cancer.

So, while eating a healthy diet, you must also maintain a healthy weight as this can help reduce the risk of this disease. Also, try to get some exercise so your body can stay active from the inside out.

Esophageal cancer can be prevented if you limit alcohol and tobacco intake, exercise regularly, eat healthy food and treat acid reflux in time.

Prognosis and prospects of esophageal cancer

How you manage this cancer will depend on your overall health and whether you are diagnosed before the cancer spreads. In most cases, doctors can successfully treat esophageal cancer in its early stages. Statistically, about 46% of people survive five years after being diagnosed with this cancer.

These data indicate a significant improvement in the survival of patients with esophageal cancer. Previously, around the 1960s and 1970s, only five percent of patients survived five years after being diagnosed with this type of cancer. Currently, this percentage has been increased to 20%, which significantly improves survival.

If we talk about the survival rate of esophageal cancer according to age, you must know that the survival rate decreases with age. For men between the ages of 50 and 59, the survival rate is about 18%. However, for men between the ages of 80 and 99, that percentage drops to 6%. On the other hand, the five-year survival rate for women is 28%, and for women of the same age group, 4%.

Your health care system may not be able to treat the cancer if it has already spread. However, they can provide treatment to help you manage your cancer symptoms so you can live pain-free and maintain a good quality of life. For this purpose, your doctor may recommend hospice care to help you live a comfortable, pain-free life.


Esophageal cancer is rare and difficult to treat. Typically, people do not notice symptoms until the cancer has spread. While early stage cancer can be successfully treated, advanced stage cancer can be quite difficult to treat. Because there is no cure for this.esophageal cancerYour medical team will administer treatment to ease your symptoms and make your experience painless. During this time, make sure you have someone to share your feelings with. It may be hard, but you have to stay strong because you will have to fight this cancer successfully.

At University Cancer Centers, we help our patients cope with their conditions by providing them with appropriate guidance. We offer cancer treatment plans that cover what is best for your current health condition and the complications you may face. Our healthcare professionals confirm your symptoms, grade and stage by diagnosing your current health, medical history and family history. For expert advice on successful cancer treatment, contact us at(713)-474-1414or make an appointment by visiting our website.


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