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What do we expect if esophogeal cancer is untreated?

12 answers | Last updated: Jun 23, 2015
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A fellow caregiver asked...

My 85 year old mother was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer two years ago, after a minor procedure to stretch her throat. She has refused any treatment and has not experienced any pain yet. The only true symptoms are the extreme weight loss (she is eating well) and the hoarseness in her voice. Her doctor has respected her wishes and has promised to provide what ever is needed to deal with any pain. I have been unable to find any resource that can provide information on what to expect when cancer is untreated. I need to be prepared for what my mother will have to deal with. Just recently she said that though she still does not have pain, she can feel something - she calls it uncomfortable, which, I am assuming, is the beginning. Any info or direction you can provide is appreciated.

 

Answers
Caring.com User - Bonnie Bajorek Daneker
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Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone...
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Even at 85, it's difficult to watch a parent manage a cancer diagnosis, and it's natural to be scared. Your first step should be to ask the diagnosing physician or See also:
How can I stop my aunt from refusing cancer treatment?

See all 923 questions about Cancer
nurse practicioner specifically what you will see as the disease progresses in your mom.

Generally, because the esophogus connects the mouth and stomach, untreated esophogeal cancer will likely lead to challenges with eating and swallowing. This could lead to further weight loss or dehydration. If this happens, try to give her small quantities of food and drink with frequency.

When she starts experiencing pain, she may also have challenges with swallowing pain medication, so you should ask the medical professionals about options other than pill form. Depending on the severity, they may recommend other forms of pain medicine, such as a pain pump, which she can control in terms of timing of dosages.

She may also have difficulty sleeping, depending on where the tumor is and how she sleeps. This can be tough to solve, as her sleep routine is probably hard to change (and may take some time, when she may be cranky because of lack of sleep), but work with her to find a solution. It could be as simple as rearranging pillows.

I am getting ready to release a much-needed e-handbook (downloadable, less than 50 pages) entitled "A Cancer Patient's End of Life" as part of my "Compassionate Caregiver Series." This can help you, as her caregiver, anticipate what she will likely experience in physical, emotional, and mental terms as she nears death, and how to manage the activity around death. If you would like, I will send you an advance copy free of charge as a member of the Caring.com community. Send another posting directly to me, with an email address, and I will send it on. Good luck.

 

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Well I have untreated cancer,and I have survived seven years,I did ask for others who had refused treatment to compare,this the first case so far.I suppose not may people refuse treatment.

 

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I would love a copy of the ebook please. My husband is 53 years old and is dying of Gastric Cancer. It was diagnosed in Aug of 08 he has done extremely well with no treatments. However we are now at the end and I am looking for help with things. The tumor has totally encompassed the stomach and there is not much room for food or fluids. The dr has said that it will only be days or weeks. He has had amazing quality of life. No pain. He has lost a lot of weight and is now malnutritioned. Thank you for asking the question and the answers that have been provided. They do help a great deal.

 

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My mom whom has rectal cancer refused to have the tumor removed after she had chemo and radiation that was back in Oct of 08. As of May of 09 she had terrible pain and couldn't tolerate the pain any longer, the surgeons performed surgery to remove the tumor once they were inside they couldn't remove the tumor due to the fact that the tumor had spreaded into her bladder and her lymph nodes. Now she is on her second bout of chemo. The surgeons did perform a colostomy on her so that the tumor wouldn't block her bowels. She wishes now that she would have opted for the surgery back in Oct of 08.

 

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saychees69 Yes there are cases such as yours ,I admit I could have suffered the same fate as your mom,but I did accept to have my tumor removed,and only left the operating theatre when I discovered they they were going to remove my stomach too,I have had growths removed by surgery in my past when it interfered with my lifelstyle also for fractured limbs.There was a case on this wedsite where a man had chemotherpy alone and his cancers disappeared.I would have my cancer removed now if they would just remove the cancer,but the surgeon only gave me a open invitation for stomach removal plus liver investigation.so as I said to him I would rather face cancer on a full stomach.Best wishes for your mom.one after thought was it the affects of chemo and radiation that made her feel she could not face the surgery?

 

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Hello octoman, I understand your decision fully and I agree with you not to let them remove the stomach, the reason my mom opted out of surgery in '08 is that she didn't want the colostomy bag, the chemo pills and the radiation that she had had shrunk the tumor and hadn't spreaded to other parts of the body and that was the perfect time to go in and get the tumor out. The chemo pills and radiation didn't make her sick or take her hair out, she had no side effects from neither, she just didn't want to have the colostomy done. Now in May '09 after the surgeons went in to remove the tumor they couldn't and she ended up with the colostomy anyway. This bout of chemo she can't take the pills so she has been nauseated and very tired after the chemo treatments. Best wishes to you to!

 

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saycheez69 Thank you for your reply,I understand your mothers aversion to the colostomy bag and her point of veiw,at that time as the treatment was working so well pity it did not continue..I get pain during the night and pain killers do not help me at all.I found if I do deep breathing and relax my body I can eliminate pain and get to sleep.It may help your mother to try .It takes time but it always works for me. Best wishes.

 

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Bonnie Daneker - I would greatly appreciate a copy of "A Cancer Patient's End of Life" . I truly apologize I have been unable to respond until now.. I was unsure how to email directly to you & don't want to post my email address on an open post. Can you please direct me to the instructions on how to get it directly to you?

Thank you so much for your response & the information. This site has been a great source of information & support through this tough time. Again, Thank you very much!!

 

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I cancer for seven years without treatment it could be misunderstood I am always going to doctors I have been about 5 times in the last 2 weeks 2 blood counts and pressure tests 2 examinations a scan test arranged for 7 Oct 09 Now for the good bit she wanted me to go in hospital yesterday but I played golf today why? I have a new lump in my stomach she thought that my cancer had grown .I thought she was wrong a day later she admitted I was right but she did not know what it was . So go to hospital.. I was exhausted.but golf is more important than living to me. I think I should wait until the results of the scan first I will accept surgury(As I have done many times)but only if is a benefit.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 86. She did have radiation treatments; tried chemo, but was allergic. During the four years that she survived, she had to undergo many procedures stretching her esophagus so that food and drink could pass to her stomach. Her tumor was located about 1/2 way down her esophagus. As we understood the doctor, the esophagus is made up of lower esophagus equals stomach cells and upper is throat cells. Mom's cancer was of the throat cells. Finally, the esophagus was completly closed, at age 90..Her original gastrointrologist (sp?) was not practicing at this time; the one that was at her chosen hospital put in a plastic type stint..this caused her significant pain and at age 90 her oncologist said no more surgeries..He helped us keep her as comfortable as possible..after she could not swallow anymore, he prescribed patches..She went downhill and only lasted about 5 or 6 weeks after this last surgery. The last 12 days were hard as she just could not stay put...being uncomfortable when awake..The Hospice nurses and her oncologist helped us to be able to keep her at home and she died in peace..My sister & I were with her these last 6 weeks.Until the last two weeks, she was able to drink nutritional drinks and thickened water at a very slow pace. It is difficult; but so many types of cancer are worse; we considered our mom fortunate, if you want to gage by length of time that she was "down"..