Have you read symptom lists for esophageal cancer that include a sore or burning throat?
Has your throat been sore lately?
Why can esophageal cancer cause this symptom?
So many conditions, including different cancers, can cause discomfort or pain in the throat.
Benign conditions include acid reflux and excessive hollering.
But a sore throat that won’t go away?
This always gets a doctor’s attention – and it should really get yours too.
How likely is your sore throat from esophageal cancer?
“I know of no documentation of the frequency of sore throat complaints concomitantly with esophageal cancer,” says Alex Little, MD, a thoracic surgeon with a special interest in esophageal and lung cancer.
“Also, I have no personal memory of a patient mentioning a sore throat.
“I can imagine that patients with enough esophageal obstruction that they need to regurgitate food stuck in their esophagus would irritate their throat, but these unfortunate folks are focused on their esophageal problem [almost always food impaction: difficulty getting food down] — as are their physicians.”
Thoat Pain Listed As an Esophageal Cancer Symptom on Websites
If a worried person searches diligently enough (and people with health anxiety often do a pretty good job of searching online for information), they’ll come across a medical site that lists throat pain among symptoms for esophageal cancer.
Dr. Little explains, “I think this represents an attempt to be exhaustive and including even unusual symptoms.
“Oral cancers and cancers of the esophagus in the neck (happily uncommon) can cause a sore throat by the cancer invading oral/pharyngeal mucosa, or the regurgitation of impacted food.
“Again, this is a secondary issue for patients and is far less prominent a symptom than dysphagia [difficulty getting the food down the esophagus] and regurgitation.”
Esophageal cancer does NOT trigger excess production of stomach acid (that then refluxes into the throat).
If you’ve been experiencing a sore or burning throat lately, but have no issues getting food down your esophagus (e.g., no sensation of trapped or stuck food, food blockage or other feeling of obstruction, nor frequent regurgitation of food chunks), then your symptom is extremely unlikely to be from esophageal cancer.
Keep in mind, also, that acid reflux can cause what seems to be a sore throat rather than a burning throat.
Tipoffs that your sore or burning throat is from acid reflux is a corresponding increase in burping, and onset of the same throat discomfort when lying down or vigorously exercising.
Another clue is that antacids make it go away in 15-20 minutes.
Alex Little, MD, trained in general and thoracic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; has been active in national thoracic surgical societies as a speaker and participant, and served as president of the American College of Chest Physicians. He’s the author of “Cracking Chests: How Thoracic Surgery Got from Rocks to Sticks,” available on Amazon.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.