Home Remedies for the Side Effects of Esophageal Cancer
Following some simple routines can help you manage the side effects of esophageal cancer treatment.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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If you're undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer, you know that it's helping fight the disease, but the side effects can make you miserable. It can be tough to stay positive and upbeat during this time. Even so, it's important to do things to help yourself feel as good as possible while your body is battling the cancer. You don't have to suffer through cancer treatment. There are plenty of ways to keep the side effects under control using some helpful home remedies.
Esophageal Cancer Side Effects and Home Remedies
Esophageal cancer treatment can cause side effects throughout your body, but more than with other cancer patients, your treatments may particularly affect the mouth and throat, which in turn can affect your appetite. Try these home remedies and other tips to minimize the side effects of esophageal cancer treatment:
Throat pain and difficulty swallowing.Esophageal cancer and its treatments can affect your ability to eat. Radiation therapy that kills the cells lining the esophagus can cause pain and soreness, and the tumor can make swallowing difficult. Here are some ideas to sidestep this side effect:
- Ease the pain of swallowing by sticking to soft foods that do not require much chewing.
- Choose foods that are cool in temperature and may numb your throat a bit — but ask your doctor before trying anything frozen.
- Avoid foods that are hard and dry or those that may have pointed edges; meats and breads may be particularly difficult.
- Try making milkshakes or smoothies, or purée foods in a blender for an easy-to-swallow meal.
- Use a straw when you can, and stick to thicker liquids: You can add thickening agents such as gelatin or rice cereal made for babies to thin liquids and make them more manageable to get down.
- Remember to eat slowly, one small bite at a time, and take time to chew properly.
Mouth sores.Mouth sores are a common side effect of treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the throat and neck. You can deal with mouth sores by:
- Drinking plenty of water to prevent dry mouth. You can also moisten your mouth with sugar-free treats such as hard candies and gum.
- Brushing your teeth several times a day, using a soft, gentle brush and warm water.
- Steering clear of mouthwash or other products that contain alcohol which can sting or irritate your mouth.
- Creating your own mouth rinse to soothe mouth sores. Try mixing either a small amount of baking soda or salt with warm water and rinse your mouth with the solution a few times every day.
Nausea and loss of appetite.Chemotherapy medications and radiation therapy treatments for esophageal cancer can make you feel sick to your stomach and dull your appetite. Here are tips to help you deal with nausea:
- Skip large meals and instead follow a diet plan of light meals and regular, small snacks every few hours. It may be easier to manage a few small bites at a time.
- Drink plenty of fluids between meals. Try caffeine-free, clear liquids that can ease nausea, such as tea, ginger ale, or lemonade.
- To prevent weight loss, get plenty of calories even if you do not feel like eating. Look for calorie-rich foods that are easy for you to swallow, such as creams and sauces, ice cream, and avocados.
- Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, or acupuncture or yoga to ease nausea.
Taking Care of Yourself
There's no need to endure the side effects of your esophageal cancer treatment without help. Be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects, so that you can work together to make the pain and nausea more manageable. With a few home remedies and medication from your doctor, you should feel comfortable enough to move forward with your esophageal cancer treatment plan as well as your everyday life.
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