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Controlling general symptoms of advanced oesophageal cancer

Men and women discussing non oesophageal cancer

This page is about controlling cancer symptoms in advanced cancer of the food pipe (oesophagus). You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Controlling general symptoms of advanced oesophageal cancer

Whether or not you decide to have any cancer treatment, there are other ways of controlling symptoms apart from using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Pain and sickness can be helped with medicines. Some people find complementary therapies such as relaxation and massage can relieve pain and sickness, as well as anxiety and stress.

Relieving pain

There are many different painkillers and ways of taking them. With the help of your doctor and nurse, it should be possible for you to be pain free most of the time, particularly when you are resting.

Sickness

Sickness can also be helped with medication. Which medicine you need depends on what is causing your sickness. It will help your doctor or symptom control nurse if you are able to tell them what relieves your sickness and what makes it worse. 

Bowel problems - diarrhoea and constipation

Relieving these symptoms also depends on their cause. Tell your doctor or nurse about your symptoms. Painkillers are a major cause of constipation. If you are taking regular painkillers, and are not taking anything to stop you getting constipated, talk to your doctor.

Nutritional support

Many people have difficulties with eating and drinking after treatment for oesophageal cancer. Your multidisciplinary team should include a dietician. They will be able to help you get the nutrition you need, and advise you on the different options that may be available to you.

There is more information about controlling symptoms in the coping with cancer section.
 

CR PDF Icon View a summary of treating advanced oesophageal cancer.

 

 

Controlling symptoms

Whether or not you decide to have any cancer treatment, there are other ways of controlling symptoms apart from using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your doctor or specialist nurse may refer you to a symptom control team (palliative care team). Members of the team are experts in controlling symptoms and helping you to stay as well as possible for as long as possible. Symptoms such as pain and sickness can be helped with medicines. Some people find complementary therapies such as relaxation and massage can relieve pain and sickness. And they can certainly help with anxiety and stress.

 

Relieving pain

There are many different painkillers and ways of taking them. With the help of your doctor and nurse, it should be possible for you to be pain free most of the time. It may not be possible to ensure you are completely pain free when you are moving around, but you should be when you are resting. We have more information on pain and pain control in our coping with cancer section. This includes information on how you and your family can help control pain yourselves, for example with relaxation or breathing exercises.

 

Sickness

Sickness can also be helped with medication. There are several different types of anti sickness medicine. Which one you need depends on what is causing your sickness. For example, it could be a chemical imbalance in your body that is making you feel sick. Or you may feel sick because you are having difficulties with food passing through your digestive system. These different causes respond to different types of treatment.

It will help your doctor or symptom control nurse if you are able to tell them what relieves your sickness and what makes you worse. We have a large section on sickness, what causes it and how to control it.

 

Bowel problems - diarrhoea and constipation

Again, relieving these symptoms depends on what exactly is causing them. Painkillers are a major cause of constipation. If you are taking regular painkillers, and are not taking anything to stop you getting constipated, talk to your doctor. It is much simpler to prevent this in the first place. A mild stool softener, such as lactulose syrup, may be all you need.

Diarrhoea can be caused by an infection or may be a side effect of cancer treatment. If you have been constipated for a long time and develop diarrhoea, tell your doctor or nurse - do not just take anti diarrhoea medicine. The diarrhoea could be a sign that the constipation has got worse, not better.

Bowel disturbances are very common after surgery to remove oesophageal cancer. It might settle in time. In the meantime, it might be worth experimenting with your diet to see if anything makes it worse. Some people find that problems after surgery are related to dairy products, particularly milk. There is more on diet after surgery in the living with oesophageal cancer section. And we also have a large section on bowel problems.

 

Nutritional support

Many people have difficulties with eating and drinking after treatment for oesophageal cancer. Your multidisciplinary team should include a dietician. They will be able to help you get the nutrition you need, and advise you on the different options that may be available to you. There is a lot of information about managing diet problems in our section on coping physically with cancer.

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Updated: 23 April 2014