Coping

Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope with a diagnosis of oesophageal cancer.

Your feelings

Finding out you have cancer can feel overwhelming, like things are out of your control.

You are likely to have a range of emotions that change very quickly. You might feel upset, frightened and confused. One day you might feel positive and able to cope but the next day feel the exact opposite. This is natural.

Counselling can help you to cope better with the difficulties you’ll face. It can help to reduce your stress and improve your quality of life.

There are other stresses if your cancer can’t be cured. But there is a lot of specialist support to help you keep as well as possible.

Helping yourself

You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember, you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Do ask for help if you need it.

Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.  

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. Talking can help to increase trust and support between you.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

Phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Who can help

Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information about your cancer.

Dietitians can help you with any eating problems you have. These might include difficulty eating or swallowing.  

Support groups, such as the Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA) offer information and support. Website: http://www.opa.org.uk/ Tel: 0121 704 9860

Physical problems

Oesophageal cancer and its treatments are likely to cause physical changes in your body. These might affect the way you feel about yourself.

Changes such as weight and hair loss can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people. Your dietitian can help you maintain your weight and your nurse can help you look at ways to cope with hair loss.

Tiredness and feeling lethargic a lot of the time is common during treatment and for some months afterwards. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.

Oesophageal cancer and its treatment can make it more difficult for you to eat and swallow.

Relationships and sex

The physical changes you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to help.

Coping practically

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting early help with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Last reviewed: 
05 May 2016
  • Guidelines for the management of oesophageal and gastric cancer. British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), 2011.

  • Management of oesophageal and gastric cancer. A national clinical guideline. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 2006.

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004.

Information panels

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.​