Before or after surgery for oesophageal cancer, you may need a feeding tube to help you manage issues with eating and drinking, and get the nutrition you need.
You may receive all of your nutrition through this tube, or it may be used to supplement the food you eat.
When feeding tubes are used
Some people with oesophageal cancer will have a feeding tube before treatment to help them maintain their weight and build up their strength.
Other people will have a feeding tube after surgery until they are able to eat and drink normally. You can be given specially prepared feeding formula through this tube. If you go home with the feeding tube in place, a dietitian will let you know the type and amount of feeding formula you need to take.
How feeding tubes help
Many people find that having a feeding tube makes eating easier and less uncomfortable. Medicines can also be given through some feeding tubes, although you cannot do this with very small feeding tubes because they may become blocked.
How feeding tubes are placed
A feeding tube can be placed into your small bowel either through a nostril (nasojejunal tube) or with an operation that places a tube through the skin of your abdomen (jejunostomy or J-tube).
How to care for a feeding tube
Your treatment team will show you how to care for the tube to keep it clean and prevent leaking and blockages, and when to replace the tube. You can avoid getting infections by washing your hands before using the tube, and keeping the tube and your skin dry.
Your doctor will remove the feeding tube when it is no longer required.
How to cope with a feeding tube
Having a feeding tube is a major change and it’s common to have a lot of questions. Getting used to having a feeding tube takes time. For information, talk to a dietitian or nurse. A counsellor or psychologist can provide emotional support and coping strategies. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information and support.
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Peter Blyth, Consumer; Jeff Bull, Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; Mick Daws, Consumer; Dr Steven Leibman, Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology Service, and Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian: Upper Gastrointestinal, Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Letchemi Valautha, Consumer; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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