February is Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month. An ideal reminder to look into the symptoms of this cancer, and how we can help you to manage your treatment.
Your oesophagus, also known as the gullet or food pipe, links your mouth with your stomach. Cancer can develop in different areas, and stages, of the oesophagus.
In this article we'll be taking a brief look at:
- Symptoms to be aware of,
- causes and risk factors,
- getting diagnosed and treatment,
- how we can help you live well and manage your symptoms and side effects.
Oesophageal Cancer Symptoms
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling or being sick
- Persistent heartburn or reflux
Causes of Oesophageal Cancer
You might be more likely to get it, but it doesn’t mean you will get it, if you:
- Are over 75, it’s not very common in people under 45
- Are a man
- Have certain medical conditions, such as long-term, severe acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or a condition called Barrett's oesophagus.
Oesophageal Cancer can be linked to your lifestyle so making a few healthy changes can lower your chances of getting it. Changes such as:
- Losing a bit of weight
- Letting hot drinks cool down before drinking them (as very hot drinks can damage your oesophagus)
- Cutting down on your alcohol intake – avoid drinking more than 14 units per week
- Quitting smoking and/or chewing tobacco.
Oesophageal Cancer Diagnosis
If you are worried about any of the above symptoms. Get in touch with your GP who will ask you further questions and may refer you for further tests. These tests will help determine if you have oesophagus cancer. Further tests will be performed to determine the stage and grade, if cancer is detected.
Treatment and living with Oesophageal Cancer
Your treatment depends on the stage (how big it is and if it has spread) and grade (what the cancer cells look like) of your cancer diagnosis. If you are diagnosed you are matched with an oncology team who will decide the best treatment for you. It could involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a mixture of these three.
Research and clinical trials for innovative cancer treatments are running all the time. Speak to your oncology team if this is something you would consider taking part in as part of your treatment plan.
Alongside medical treatment for cancer we provide support to help you live well with and beyond oesophageal cancer.
Support with side affects and symptoms
Difficulty swallowing and fatigue are common symptom of oesophageal cancer, but are also side effects of treatment.
Our guide Eating Well When Eating Becomes Difficult is full of tips and guidance to help you prepare delicious and nutritious meals, bearing in mind the difficulties that arise from treatment.
Coping with cancer
We can support you through your cancer experience.
If you're new to Penny Brohn UK, a great starting point is joining us for our Introduction to Penny Brohn UK session, held every two weeks. Meet our therapists and find out more about the support we provide and what you need to help you live well with cancer.