Reflux and choking
Many people experience reflux after surgery for oesophageal cancer. This can cause heartburn, chest discomfort, or your stomach contents to flow up your oesophagus, particularly when lying flat or bending over. Taking medicines to reduce stomach acid generally helps. It is important to avoid eating or drinking before going to bed at night.
After surgery or radiation therapy for oesophageal cancer, scar tissue may cause choking or swallowing problems while eating or drinking. See your doctor if this continues. After an oesophagectomy, the stomach can take longer to empty. You may feel full more quickly or be more likely to vomit after eating.
How to relieve reflux and choking
- Limit spicy foods, fatty foods, fizzy drinks, alcohol and citrus fruits to prevent reflux.
- Take small sips of liquid to reduce coughing or choking.
- Chew foods well, eat slowly, and avoid talking while eating.
- To help food digest, sit up straight when eating and for at least another 30 minutes.
- Consider eating your main meal earlier in the day and having a small snack in the evening.
- After an oesophagectomy, you should remain upright for four hours after eating. Eat your evening meal more than four hours before going to bed.
- Avoid bending over too far.
- Keep your chest higher than your stomach when sleeping by lifting the head end of your bed with blocks about the thickness of a house brick. The whole bed should be tilted slightly.
- Don’t overexert yourself, as this can cause reflux.
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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