At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, relieving pain and other symptoms of esophageal cancer is an important concern at every stage of your care. Experts in palliative care and pain management provide treatments that can improve your quality of life during and after treatment for the disease.
Palliative treatments are not intended to cure the cancer, but can relieve pain and discomfort caused by the disease. If the tumor is obstructing the esophagus or constricting certain nerves, for example, palliative approaches can provide relief and make it easier to swallow.
If you are having trouble eating after undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer, your doctors may ask you to follow a liquid or soft diet, or you may be given a feeding tube to bring food directly to your stomach. These steps are usually temporary – often just for the duration of your recovery from surgery.
If a tumor is blocking the esophagus, a surgeon or gastroenterologist can implant a metal or plastic device called a stent into the esophagus near the tumor to keep the esophagus open. The stent can enhance swallowing and make it possible for you to eat a nutritious diet.
Another way to relieve obstruction in the esophagus is by using a short course of radiation to shrink the tumor. Radiation therapy is also used sometimes after a patient receives a stent, to keep it from becoming obstructed.