There is support available to help you cope with emotional, practical and physical issues when you have advanced oesophageal cancer.
Advanced oesophageal cancer is cancer that has spread from the food pipe (gullet) to other parts of the body, such as the liver. Sometimes cancer is advanced when it is first diagnosed. Or the cancer has come back and spread after treatment for the original cancer.
Treatment can't cure advanced oesophageal cancer. But it can keep it under control, relieve symptoms and give you a good quality of life. Your doctors and nurses will help you to make the most of life and feel as good as possible for as long as possible.
How you might feel
Finding out that you can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal to not be able to think about anything else.
Lots of information and support is available to you, your family and friends. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the treatments you might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.
Talk to your doctor or nurse to understand:
- what your diagnosis means
- what is likely to happen
- what treatment is available
- how treatment can help you
Talking about advanced cancer
Your friends and relatives might be able to support you and talk to you about your cancer. Sharing can help to increase trust and support between you and make it easier to plan ahead. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up. So they may not want to discuss it. 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. You can help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to discuss what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.
Counselling might help you find ways of coping with your feelings and emotions. You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Thinking about your priorities and planning what you want to do can help you to feel more in control. You might want to talk about how you want to spend your time and what is and isn’t important to you.
Some of your future plans might no longer be realistic. But you might get round to doing something you always wanted to do but weren’t able to make time for.
Advanced oesophageal cancer is likely to cause physical changes in your body. Community cancer nurses or symptom control nurses can help to support you at home.
Difficulty eating and swallowing is a problem for some people. This can cause weight loss.
You might also feel very tired and lacking in energy a lot of the time.
Emotional and physical changes can affect your relationships and sex life.
Feeling as well as you can
It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms you have so they can help to control them.
You might have extra expenses due to the cancer. Your specialist nurse or GP can help you get grants for heating costs, holidays or household expenses related to your illness.
Ask to see a social worker. They can let you know which benefits or grants you can claim and help with the claiming process.
Who can help
You can get emotional and practical support through your hospital, local hospice and GP practice. You can also get help from charities and support groups.
The Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA) gives help and support and has local groups.
You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses free on 0808 800 4040, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.
Towards the end of life
It’s natural to want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.
You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.