Follow-up care in case of esophageal cancer is to check for a recurrence. This is critical because sometimes despite seeking treatment small areas of cancer cells may remain undetected in the body. Over time, these cells may increase in number and aggravate the situation.
During follow-up care, your cancer specialist familiar with your medical history can give you personalized information about your risk of recurrence. As a result you may be prescribed some blood tests or imaging tests as part of a regular esophageal cancer follow-up guideline.
The testing recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer originally diagnosed and the types of treatment given.
If the esophageal cancer is in remission, follow-up care may include CT scans and upper endoscopies to watch for a possible recurrence.
Palliative treatment is generally aimed at preventing or relieving symptoms instead of trying to cure the cancer. The main purpose of this type of treatment is to improve the patient’s comfort and enhance the quality of life.
Feeding tube: Chemotherapy, radiation, and chemoradiation can often cause painful sores in the mouth and throat of patients undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer. As a result patients find it hard to eat well and get good nutrition, thereby making their health worse. Such patients may need to have a feeding tube that lets liquid nutrition be put directly into the small intestine to prevent further weight loss and improve nutrition. This makes treatment easier to tolerate to some extent.
Esophageal dilation: This procedure is used to stretch out an area of the esophagus that is narrowed or blocked to allow better swallowing.
Several types of endoscopic procedures can be used to help keep the esophagus open in people who are having trouble swallowing. This includes:
- Esophageal stent placement
- Photodynamic therapy
- Laser ablation
- Argon plasma coagulation
External-beam radiation can help relieve some of the symptoms from advanced esophageal cancer, including pain and problems swallowing. Though radiation is often used for cancer that has spread to the brain or spine, it is also useful in treating problems with swallowing caused due to blocked esophagus.
Chemotherapy and targeted therapy can be considered a type of palliative or supportive therapy because they are intended to help slow the growth of the cancer, thereby relieving patients of painful symptoms.
Pain control is an important concern for people with esophageal cancer. There are many ways to treat cancer pain. This includes medicines and other supportive treatments.