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Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Esophageal Cancer

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your personal risk factors and/or experience with esophageal cancer. By talking openly and regularly with your healthcare provider, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your healthcare provider:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

About Your Risk of Developing Esophageal Cancer
  • Is there anything in my medical history to warrant a look at and biopsy of my esophagus?
  • How do I know if my heartburn is being treated adequately to prevent it from becoming cancer?
About Treatment Options
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • Please explain the risks and benefits of each treatment.
  • How effective are these treatments?
  • How do you expect my cancer to react?
  • Can you refer me to an organized support group so I can talk to others who have had similar experiences?
About Quality of Life Issues
  • Please connect me with a pain treatment center.
  • Do I need a nutritionist?
  • How severe do my swallowing symptoms need be before I should seek intervention to prevent lung complications?
  • How will different treatment options effect my quality of life?
About End-of-Life Preparations
  • When should I consider hospice care?
  • What can hospice care offer my family and me?
  • When should I bring my family in for open progress reports?

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

You will be in frequent contact with your treatment team. Arrange a time to discuss these important issues and events:

  • Before choosing a recommended treatment
  • When you are not maintaining your weight
  • When you are aspirating (inhaling) food, liquids, or saliva
  • When your pain relief is insufficient
  • When care in your present situation is inadequate or an excessive burden on your caretakers

Revision Information

  • American Chronic Pain Association website. Available at: http://www.theacpa.org . Accessed August 5, 2013.

  • 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.

  • Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html . Updated November 2010. Accessed August 5, 2013.