Esophagus Cancer Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Moving on after treatment

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. To learn more, see our document, Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence.

For other people, the esophagus cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer as an on-going (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.

Follow-up care

If you have finished treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to keep all these follow-up visits. Your doctors will ask about symptoms, examine you, and may order blood tests, upper endoscopy, or imaging tests such as barium swallows or CT scans. These tests are described in the section, "How is cancer of the esophagus found?") Follow-up is needed to check for cancer that has come back or spread, and to look for possible side effects of certain treatments.

Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can last for the rest of your life. 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. Use this time to ask your health care team questions and discuss any concerns you might have. You may also want to see our document, When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.

Help for trouble swallowing, nutrition, and pain

There are treatments aimed at helping to relieve the symptoms of esophagus cancer, rather than trying to cure the cancer (palliative treatments). 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. For this reason, weight loss and weakness due to poor nutrition are common problems. Your doctor and others can work with you to help you eat well and maintain your weight.

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 make sure you get good relief.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know about your cancer. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which is often stored on a CD, DVD, etc.
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
  • If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
  • If you had radiation treatment, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
  • If you had chemotherapy or targeted therapies, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them

Last Medical Review: 12/26/2012
Last Revised: 12/26/2012