Esophageal Cancer (cont.)
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Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. You may want to find a medical center that has a lot of experience with treating esophageal cancer. You may even want to talk to several different doctors about all of the treatment options, their side effects, and the expected results.
Some people worry that the doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it.
If you get a second opinion, the second doctor may agree with your first doctor's diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You can feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you've looked at your options.
It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. In most cases, it's not a problem to take several weeks to get a second opinion. The delay in starting treatment usually will not make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor.
There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists.
Esophageal cancer and its treatment can lead to other health problems. You can have supportive care before, during, or after cancer treatment.
Supportive care is treatment to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to help you cope with the feelings that a diagnosis of cancer can bring. You may receive supportive care to prevent or control these problems and to improve your comfort and quality of life during treatment.
Cancer Blocks the Esophagus
You may have trouble swallowing because the cancer blocks the esophagus. Not being able to swallow makes it hard or impossible to eat. It also increases the risk of food getting in your airways. This can lead to a lung infection like pneumonia. Also, not being able to swallow liquids or saliva can be very distressing.
Your health care team may suggest one or more of the following options:
Cancer and its treatments may cause pain. It may be painful to swallow, or you may have pain in your chest from the cancer or from a stent. Your health care team or a pain control specialist can suggest ways to relieve or reduce pain.
Sadness and Other Feelings
It's normal to feel sad, anxious, or confused after a diagnosis of a serious illness. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings. See the Sources of Support section.
It's important to meet your nutrition needs before, during, and after cancer treatment. You need the right amount of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Getting the right nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy.
However, when you have esophageal cancer, it may be hard to eat for many reasons. You may be uncomfortable or tired, and you may not feel like eating. Also, the cancer may make it hard to swallow food. If you're getting chemotherapy, you may find that foods don't taste as good as they used to. You also may have side effects of treatment such as poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
If you develop problems with eating, there are a number of ways to meet your nutrition needs. A registered dietitian can help you figure out a way to get enough calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals:
Nutrition After Surgery
A registered dietitian can help you plan a diet that will meet your nutrition needs. A plan that describes the type and amount of food to eat after surgery can help you prevent weight loss and discomfort with eating.
If your stomach is removed during surgery, you may develop a problem afterward known as the dumping syndrome. This problem occurs when food or liquid enters the small intestine too fast. It can cause cramps, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and dizziness. There are steps you can take to help control dumping syndrome:
Also, your health care team may suggest medicine to control the symptoms.
After surgery, you may need to take daily supplements of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, and you may need injections of vitamin B12.
You may want to ask a registered dietitian these questions about nutrition:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2014
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Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs Question: What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Prognosis Question: What is your esophageal cancer prognosis?
Esophageal Cancer - Types Question: Do you or someone you know have adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus? Please share your story.
Esophageal Cancer - Risk Factors Question: Do you have any of the risk factors for esophageal cancer? What are they, and what are your concerns?
Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis Question: What kinds of tests and exams led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, did you receive for esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Surgery Question: Please describe the surgical experience you or someone you know had for esophageal cancer.
Esophageal Cancer - Second Opinion Question: How did you go about getting a second opinion for your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Follow-Up Care Question: What type of follow-up care did you receive for your esophageal cancer?