NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Esophageal Cancer
Part 7: Accepting a treatment plan
Becoming a “cancer patient”
Hearing “you have cancer” is likely to be life-
changing. Some challenges may include
managing doctor visits, figuring out how to care
for your kids, missing work, and feeling a loss
of control. Some people try to keep their life as
normal as they can. Others change their life a lot.
However, many cancer survivors will tell you that
during the active treatment period, being a patient
is your job. It’s a job that requires much time and
energy. This can be hard.
Use your strengths, talents, and resources to help
you cope. Maintain warm relationships with family
and friends. Accept the support offered to you
and reach out for more help if you need it. Most
people would be happy to hear what you need.
Make a list for them of things that would help you.
If you are a person of faith, your personal beliefs
and faith community can help. There are also
professionals in mental health, social work, and
pastoral services who are able to assist you. You
can also start attending support groups to receive
help from other cancer survivors.
Stress and symptom control
For most patients with cancer, their main concern is that
their treatment works. However, having cancer is complex
and brings many physical and emotional challenges.
Cancer or its treatment can cause bothersome
symptoms. Such symptoms include trouble swallowing,
pain, and nausea. The stress of having cancer can also
cause symptoms. Helping you to be comfortable and
stay active are key goals of the treatment plan. There
are ways to treat many symptoms, so tell your treatment
team about any symptoms you have. Some of the
challenges you may face are addressed next.
You may have already lost some nights of sleep. This
is common. The stress of learning that you have cancer
and deciding a treatment plan takes its toll. You may
lose more sleep while waiting to have treatment and
during recovery. Getting less sleep can affect your mood,
conversations, and ability to do things. If possible, allow
yourself to rest, let people do things for you, and talk with
your doctor about sleep medication. Behavioral sleep
medicine—a type of talk therapy—may also help.
Feelings of anxiety and depression are common among
patients with cancer. You may feel anxious before testing
and while waiting for the results. Likewise, you may have
a passing depression during a hard part of treatment.
Feeling distressed may be a minor problem or it may be
more serious. Serious or not, tell your treatment team so
that you can get help if needed. Help can include support
groups, talk therapy, or medication. Some people