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Follow up for oesophageal cancer

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This page is about follow up appointments (check ups) after treatment for cancer of the food pipe (oesophagus). You can find information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Follow up for oesophageal cancer

After your treatment has finished, your doctor will want you to have regular check ups. Your doctor will examine you and ask how you are feeling, whether you have had any symptoms or side effects from treatment and if you are worried about anything. At some visits, you may have blood tests, X-rays, CT scans or ultrasound scans.

After treatment to try to cure oesophageal cancer, you have check ups so that your surgeon or cancer specialist can monitor your recovery. If you have advanced cancer, you may have regular check ups so that your doctor is in touch with how you are. A check up also gives you the chance to raise any concerns you have.

If you are worried or notice any new symptoms, you must let your doctor know as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until your next appointment.

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring all the worry about your cancer back to you. It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. To find out more about counselling, look in the coping with cancer section.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating oesophageal cancer section.

 

 

Why you have follow up appointments

After your treatment has finished, you will have regular check ups with your doctor or specialist nurse. The reason you have them depends on your circumstances. After treatment to try to cure oesophageal cancer, you attend check ups so that your surgeon or cancer specialist can monitor your recovery and see if you have any issues with your diet after surgery. These appointments are also an opportunity for you to raise any concerns you have about your progress.

If you have advanced cancer, you may have regular check ups so that your doctor and specialist nurse are in touch with how you are. Again, you will have the opportunity to bring up any worries you have. Any changes in your health will come to light. And your doctor or specialist nurse can check regularly to see if you need anything else, either as treatment or to help with any symptoms you may be having.

 

What tests you might have

Tests may include

  • Being examined by your doctor or specialist nurse
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound scans

You will not have all of these tests at every visit. But your doctor or nurse will probably examine you at each appointment. They will also ask how you are feeling and whether you have had any symptoms or are worried about anything.

You may also see other types of health workers during these appointments, such as physiotherapists or dieticians. You may want to come back to hospital to see the dietician if you have had oesophageal surgery. You can arrange this through your specialist or nurse when you attend the outpatient clinic. If you have a check up coming up, and would like to see a dietician at the same time, you could telephone the clinic or your specialist’s secretary to arrange this.

 

How often you might have check ups

At first, your check ups will be every few months. But if all is well, they will gradually become less and less frequent. If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, you must let your doctor or specialist nurse know as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until your next appointment.

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring all the worry about your cancer back to you. You may find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you are feeling. If you are able to share your worries, they may not seem quite so bad. It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. To find out more about counselling, look in the coping with cancer section.

 

Patient led follow up

Some hospitals are trying out a new way of running their check ups. This system leaves it to you to take the lead in arranging to see your doctor or specialist nurse. At first, after surgery or cancer treatment, you have appointments arranged for you. But once your surgeon or cancer specialist are happy that everything is going well and don't have any medical concerns about you, they will leave it to you to arrange your appointments yourself. You can do this as often as you feel you need to. You may want to see the doctor about a particular problem that has cropped up. Or you may feel it is time you had a check up, even though you don't have any particular worries. In some situations, your specialist may ask you to book in for a particular test every so often - a yearly chest X-ray, for example.

An advantage of this system is that you can organise appointments to suit your own health needs. You can get support from community nurses and dieticians too. You aren't being summoned to the hospital just because 12 weeks have gone by and you have to see the doctor whether you feel you need to or not. This also means that the clinics are not full of people who do not necessarily need to see their doctor. This allows the hospital to keep the waiting times short. So if you need an appointment, you can get one quickly. Obviously, this is the thing that will make or break this new system. It won't work if you can't get an appointment when you need to.

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Updated: 26 July 2012