Diet after treatment

It can take a few months to recover from treatment, and up to a year to adjust to the changes in your digestive system.

After surgery, you can start to eat as soon as your doctor says you can. This can be up to a week after your operation. You’ll usually start with a soft diet while you’re still in hospital and often be advised to stay on this for a few weeks. This will help keep the food pipe open as it heals.

Gradually, you’ll be able to start eating solid foods again. It will help if there are no large lumps of food and you chew everything well. You may worry about eating solid foods at first. This will often get easier as you become more used to a normal diet again.

Your dietitian will talk to you about your diet and give you advice to help you recover from treatment. If you have any worries or concerns after you’ve gone home, contact the dietitian or your specialist nurse for advice.

You may have indigestion. It can help to eat slowly and not to lie down for about 30–60 minutes after eating. You may also find it helpful not to lie completely flat. You could try using extra pillows or raising the head of bed.

If you’ve had part of your stomach removed, you’ll feel full very quickly. This is because your stomach is smaller. Try to eat smaller meals more often, rather than large ones. It can also help to chew food well and eat slowly.

Diarrhoea is fairly common after any operation for oesophageal cancer. You may sometimes need to cut out certain foods, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals. Having less milk in your diet can also help you deal with this problem.

If you’ve had radiotherapy, or a tube fitted in your oesophagus, you’ll probably need a softer diet. Avoid foods that may block the tube or that you may find difficult to swallow, such as raw fruit and vegetables, tough meat or crusty bread. Complan® and any powdered food supplement must be very thoroughly mixed. It’s also a good idea to eat slowly and to have plenty to drink during and after meals.

The Oesophageal Patients Association can give you recipes and ideas to make your meals more interesting.

You may find our sections on preventing weight loss, healthy eating as well as our recipes for people affected by cancer helpful. If you have difficulties with swallowing again after treatment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the cancer is coming back. This can be caused by the treatment itself. Contact your hospital doctor or nurse for advice.

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Lifestyle and well-being

Looking after yourself after treatment and making positive lifestyle changes can help you recover more rapidly.