Living through an esophageal cancer diagnosis and treatment is life-changing. Everyone’s post-treatment journey might look a little different. It’s important to be aware of (and stay on top of) follow-up care. Here are some tips on how to advocate for yourself beyond esophageal cancer.
Living as an Esophagus Cancer Survivor
For some people with esophagus cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. The end of treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but yet it’s hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is very common concern if you’ve had cancer.
For other people, the esophagus cancer might never go away completely. Some people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments to try and help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty.
Life after esophageal cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.
Even if you have completed treatment, you will likely have follow-up visits with your doctor for many years. It’s very important to go to all your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask if you are having any problems and may do exams and lab tests or imaging tests to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. If you want to be more sure of the results, then you can always get a second opinion from other reputed oncology centers (like this San Diego oncology center, for example). Once both the reports produce the same results, you could probably get a piece of mind.
Some treatment side effects might last a long time or might not even show up until years after you have finished treatment. Your doctor visits are a good time to ask questions and talk about any changes or problems you notice or concerns you have. It’s very important to report any new symptoms to the doctor right away, especially if they include trouble swallowing or chest pain. Early treatment can relieve many symptoms and improve your quality of life.
To some extent, the frequency of follow up visits and tests will depend on the stage of your cancer, the treatment you received, and the chance of it coming back.
Survivors of esophageal cancer should also follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for breast, cervical, lung, and prostate cancer.
Ask your doctor for a survivorship care plan
Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:
- A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
- A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection (screening) tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
- A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
- Diet and physical activity suggestions
- Reminders to keep your appointments with your primary care provider (PCP), who will monitor your general health care
Help for trouble swallowing, nutrition, and pain
Palliative treatments are aimed at helping to relieve the symptoms of esophagus cancer, rather than trying to cure cancer. In some cases, they are used along with other treatments that focus on curing cancer. However, palliative treatments are often used in people with advanced cancer to help improve their quality of life. In addition to being associated with life-threatening diseases and terminal illnesses, palliative care is also a critical component of aged care. To learn more about how palliative care can benefit patients who are in need of it, click here.
Cancer of the esophagus often causes trouble swallowing, which can lead to weight loss and weakness due to poor nutrition. A team of doctors and nutritionists can work with you to provide nutritional supplements and information about your individual nutritional needs. You may consider looking into supplements such as nmn supplements
or liquid vitamins if you were having difficulties swallowing and wanted to find a way to take vitamins at once in a possibly easier format This can help you maintain your weight and nutritional intake. For more information and nutrition tips for during and after cancer treatment, see Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment.
There are many ways to control pain caused by cancer of the esophagus. Some people may choose to visit a Pain Treatment Clinic. Others may prefer to take some medication or even have surgery to numb the pain. It depends on your situation, of course. If you have pain, tell your cancer care team right away, so they can give you prompt and effective pain management. For more information, see Cancer Pain.
Esophageal Cancer Resources
For more information on esophageal cancer, visit our resource library. It has helpful facts, news, and other resources specific to esophageal cancer.