Esophageal Cancer (cont.)

Second Opinion

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and your treatment options. 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. Some insurance companies actually require a second opinion.

If you get a second opinion, the second doctor may agree with your first doctor's diagnosis and treatment recommendation. 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 all of 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. Some people with cancer of the esophagus need treatment right away.

Surgery

Surgery may be an option for people with early-stage cancer of the esophagus. Usually, the surgeon removes the section of the esophagus with the cancer, a small amount of normal tissue around the cancer, and nearby lymph nodes. Sometimes, part or all of the stomach is also removed.

If only a very small part of the stomach is removed, the surgeon usually reshapes the remaining part of the stomach into a tube and joins the stomach tube to the remaining part of the esophagus in the neck or chest. Or, a piece of large intestine or small intestine may be used to connect the stomach to the remaining part of the esophagus.

If the entire stomach needs to be removed, the surgeon will use a piece of intestine to join the remaining part of the esophagus to the small intestine.

During surgery, the surgeon may place a feeding tube into your small intestine. This tube helps you get enough nutrition while you heal.

You may have pain from the surgery. However, your health care team will give you medicine to help control the pain. Before surgery, you may want to discuss the plan for pain relief with your health care team. After surgery, they can adjust the plan if you need more pain relief.

Your health care team will watch for pneumonia or other infections, breathing problems, bleeding, food leaking into the chest, or other problems that may require treatment. The time it takes to heal after surgery is different for everyone. Your hospital stay may be a week or longer, and your recovery will continue after you leave the hospital.

Questions you may want to ask your doctor about surgery

  • Do you suggest surgery for me? If so, what type?
  • How will I feel after surgery?
  • If I have pain, how can we control it?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Am I likely to have eating problems? Will I need a special diet?
  • Will I need a feeding tube? If so, for how long? How do I take care of it? Who can help me if I have a problem?
  • Will I have any lasting side effects?
  • When can I get back to my normal activities?

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs Question: What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Prognosis and Stage Question: What is your esophageal cancer prognosis? What stage is your esophageal cancer?
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?