Cancer WARNING: Why you should never ignore difficulty swallowing

Difficulty swallowing could be a sign of oesophageal cancer, and mainly affects people in their 60s and 70s, according to the NHS.

The cancer doesn’t usually show any symptoms at the beginning, when the tumour is small, but it can lead to difficulty swallowing - otherwise known as dysphagia - heartburn, and weight loss.

You should see your GP if you’re struggling to swallow properly, said the NHS.

But, the symptom could also be signs of acid reflux, epiglottitis and oesophagitis.

“Some people with dysphagia have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others can't swallow at all,” said the NHS.

“Over time, dysphagia can also cause symptoms such as weight loss and repeated chest infections.

“The symptoms can be caused by several conditions and in many cases won't be caused by cancer – but it's a good idea to get them checked out.

“If your GP thinks you need to have some tests, they can refer you to a hospital specialist.”

Dysphagia is usually caused by an underlying health condition, include those that affects the nervous system, acid reflux, or cancer.

It could be caused by oesophageal cancer as the oesophagus is the tube responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach.

Epiglottitis is a condition which causes the flap that closes over the windpipe to become inflamed. The epiglottis is the flap underneath the tongue that closes over the trachea while eating to prevent food entering the airways. Difficulty swallowing could be a sign of the condition.

Dysphagia could also be a sign of oesophagitis - an inflammation of the oesophageal lining, due to infection or irritation.

Treating dysphagia depends on the underlying health condition.

After treatment, a lot of patients’ symptoms improve, but it’s not always possible.

Surgery to wide the narrowing of the oesophagus, or alternative forms of feeding, could be used to treat the condition, the NHS said.

There are 50 pairs of muscles and nerves used to help you swallow, according to the National Institute of Deadness and Other Communication Diseases.