Treatment for swallowing difficulties

Difficulty swallowing

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Difficulty swallowing can be caused by the tumour itself or if the oesophagus is narrowed after surgery or radiotherapy. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have difficulty swallowing. You may need to change the way you eat until things improve, or you may need treatment if the problem continues. 

Treatments for swallowing problems

Oesophageal dilation (stretching)

Oesophageal dilatation is a treatment that stretches and widens a narrowed area in your oesophagus so food and drink can pass through again. It uses an instrument called a dilator and it can be done quickly under general or local anaesthetic.

The dilatation may last only a short time and need to be repeated a few weeks or months later. A different type of dilator might be used instead. Your doctor and dietitian can advise you on the best consistency of food to take after the dilatation. 

Oesophageal stent

A hollow tube called a stent is put into your oesophagus under local or general anaesthetic. The stent is made of plastic or wire mesh. Once in place, it expands to keep your oesophagus open so you can swallow more easily.

Once you are awake, you can start taking fluids. Gradually you will be given small amounts of soft food to eat. Your dietitian will advise you on the type of foods you should eat. You will need to chew your food thoroughly before swallowing so the stent does not get blocked. Foods that are soft and moist are generally the most suitable. But you may need to blend your food too. Having drinks with your food and after food can help to keep the stent clean.

For more information

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