Managing side effects of oesophageal cancer
Oesophageal cancer and its treatment can cause many side effects. Some of these side effects are permanent and may affect your ability to eat, digest foods and absorb essential nutrients. Here we look at common side effects and how to manage them.
Learn more about:
- Managing side effects during and after treatment
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Reflux and choking
- Dumping syndrome
- Anaemia and osteoporosis
During and after treatment, it’s important to make sure you are eating and drinking enough to maintain your weight and avoid malnutrition or dehydration. If you are eating less than usual it is often recommended that you choose high energy, high protein foods and relax healthy eating guidelines. You may need a feeding tube during or after treatment if you are unable to eat and drink enough to meet your nutritional needs. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian with experience in cancer care.
After treatment, some foods you used to eat may cause digestive problems. You will need to try different foods and ways of eating to find out what works for you. You may need to change your eating habits, such as eating smaller meals more often throughout the day.
Some people find it difficult to cope emotionally with the changes to how and what they can eat. You may feel self-conscious or worry about eating in public or with friends. These reactions are natural. It may help to talk about how you feel with your family and friends, or to speak with a counsellor or someone who has been through a similar experience. They may be able to give you advice on how to adjust. It may take time and support to adapt to your new way of eating.
Prof David Watson, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Oesophago-gastric Surgery Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, and Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Flinders University, SA; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gastrointestinal Cancers, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Christine Froude, Consumer; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Interventional Endoscopist and Consultant Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Grant Wilson, Consumer; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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Managing cancer side effects
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