If you are unable to eat and drink enough to meet your nutritional needs, you may need a feeding tube. You may receive all of your nutrition through this tube, or it may be used to supplement the food you eat.
Some people with oesophageal cancer will have a feeding tube before treatment to help them maintain weight and build up their strength. Other people will have a feeding tube after surgery while their wound is healing.
Your doctor and dietitian will discuss your individual nutrition needs with you.
Many people find that having a feeding tube eases the pressure and discomfort of eating. Medicines can also be given through a feeding tube. However, if the tube is very small, you may be advised not to put any medicines down the tube to prevent blockages.
A feeding tube can be placed into your small bowel either through a nostril (nasojejunal tube) or through an opening on the outside of your abdomen (jejunostomy or J-tube).
If you go home with the feeding tube in place, a dietitian will advise you on the type and amount of feeding formula you will need.
Your health care team will also tell you how to keep the tube clean; how to prevent wear, leakage and blockages; and when to replace the tube.
Your doctor will remove the feeding tube when it is no longer required.
Having a feeding tube inserted is a major change. It can take time to adjust to a feeding tube and it is common to have a lot of questions. It may help to talk to your family, or to a counsellor or nurse. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information and support.
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.
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