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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Esophageal Cancer

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Lifestyle changes can be helpful in a variety of important ways:

  • Strengthening your body so that you can withstand some of the rigors of treatment
  • Optimizing the function of your immune system to aid in the fight against cancer
  • Improving your emotional outlook, so you can enjoy life to the fullest, even during treatment for esophageal cancer
  • Making healthful choices that will help you avoid other medical problems that could complicate your health

General Guidelines

  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce your risk of infection
  • Follow a nutritious diet
  • Rest when tired
  • Seek support

Stop Smoking

Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers. Although you may have already been diagnosed with cancer, it’s not too late to stop smoking. When you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of its many associated medical complications, which should improve your chances of withstanding the physical stresses of cancer and treatment. Also, since the immune system of smokers is generally less effective than nonsmokers, by quitting you may be adding your immune system’s ability to join in the battle against cancer.

Ask your doctor about programs to help you quit smoking , such as group support, hypnosis, and alternative nicotine delivery systems.

Reduce Your Risk of Infection

To decrease your risk of infection, avoid exposure to bacteria and viruses:

  • Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often . Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. You may wish to carry hand sanitizer with you for occasions when washing is not convenient.

Follow a Nutritious Diet

Eating a healthful diet may help you avoid other medical conditions linked to poor nutrition. Because cancer itself and some cancer treatment may have a dulling effect on your appetite, it’s important that you make the most of the calories you do take in. Strongly consider consulting a registered dietitian (RD) to help you learn more about the best kinds of foods for you to eat, and how to eat other, less healthful foods in moderation. Avoid making drastic changes in your diet based on the latest fad diet.

Rest When Tired

The treatments for cancer can add to the fatigue you already feel from fighting cancer. In fact, fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. The fatigue you feel can range from just feeling tired to complete and utter exhaustion. Wherever in this range you fall, you may find your fatigue quite distressing and affecting your quality of life.

It is important to allow your body time to rest. This will help your body have the strength to heal itself. Studies have shown a relationship between fatigue and an increased morbidity of cancer and cancer treatments as a result of fatigue's adverse effect on appetite, diminished quality of life, and loss of hope.

To help you avoid getting overtired, try not to do too much. Prioritize the things you need to do, and focus on the most important ones. Also, allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. Plan times throughout the day when you can rest.

Change your routine evening hours so you can get a good night's sleep .

Seek Support

The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that is difficult to handle for anyone. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can take a devastating toll that no one should have to tackle on their own. Give yourself permission to call on social support , including the following:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Religious community
  • Empathetic support groups for people with your type of cancer
  • Professional support, including social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families

People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional equilibrium, which will help them face the challenges of cancer and its treatment.

When to Contact Your Doctor

It’s important that you don’t make major lifestyle changes without consulting your doctor and verifying that you are proceeding safely. You are already being physically and emotionally challenged by the presence of cancer and the rigors of treatment. You and your doctor need to work together to make wise lifestyle choices and implement them in the healthiest way possible. Your doctor can provide referrals to an RD, personal trainer, therapist, and support group.

Revision Information

  • Esophageal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated June 2, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.

  • Esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/esophageal . Accessed August 5, 2013.

  • Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003098-pdf.pdf . Accessed August 5, 2013.