- What happens after treatment for cancer of the esophagus?
- Lifestyle changes after treatment of cancer of the esophagus
- Can I lower the risk of my esophagus cancer progressing or coming back?
- How about your emotional health after treatment for cancer of the esophagus?
- If treatment for cancer of the esophagus stops working
What happens after treatment for cancer of the esophagus?
For some people with esophagus cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are living full lives. Our document, Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence, gives more detailed information on this.
For other people, the esophagus cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer as more of a chronic disease can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document, When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away, talks more about this.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, examine you, and may order blood tests, upper endoscopy, or imaging tests such as upper gastrointestinal (GI) x-rays, barium swallows, or CT scans. These tests are described in the section, "How is cancer of the esophagus diagnosed?" Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as for possible side effects of certain treatments. This is the time for you to ask your health care team any questions you need answered and to discuss any concerns you might have.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can last the rest of your life. Don't hesitate to tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.
It is 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.
It is important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
If cancer does recur, treatment will depend on the location of the cancer and what treatments you've had before. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section, "Recurrent cancer of the esophagus." For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document, When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence. You can get this document by calling 1-800-227-2345.
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 the cancer. In some cases they are used along with other treatments that focus on curing the cancer, but palliative treatments are often used in people with advanced cancer to help improve their quality of life.
Cancer of the esophagus often causes trouble swallowing. This is why weight loss and weakness due to poor nutrition are common problems. A team of doctors and nutritionists can work with you to provide nutritional supplements and information about your individual nutritional needs. This can be valuable in helping you maintain your weight and nutritional intake.
There are many ways to control pain caused by cancer of the esophagus. If you have pain, please tell your cancer care team right away, so they can give you prompt and effective pain management.
For more information on palliative treatments, see the section, "Palliative therapy for cancer of the esophagus."
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know anything about your medical history. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Make sure you have this information handy:
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored on a CD, DVD, etc.
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
- If you had radiation therapy, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
- If you had chemotherapy (or targeted therapy), a list of the drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
The doctor may want copies of this information for his records, but always keep copies for yourself.
Last Medical Review: 12/10/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013