Cancer patients swallowing dysfunction also known as dysphagia is often associated with mesothelioma. It can be a symptom of mesothelioma itself, especially in pleural mesothelioma. Cancer patients swallowing dysfunction can also be a side effect from radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Help Managing Cancer Patients Swallowing Dysfunction
To help manage cancer patients swallowing dysfunction, it is important to be very specific in describing symptoms. Does food feel like it is getting stuck in the chest or the throat? Or is it painful to swallow? The symptoms can help an oncologist help try to find the best ways to manage the condition.
The oncologist may refer a mesothelioma patient with swallowing dysfunction to a speech pathologist. A speech pathologist is a professional who specializes in helping people use the muscles in the mouth and throat. A speech pathologist can help teach techniques to make swallowing easier and to avoid choking and gagging while eating and drinking. It may be advisable for mesothelioma patients to be pro-active and meet with a speech pathologist and start swallowing therapy before swallowing problems begin.
Doctors can also prescribe medications to help with inflammation and pain. Some pain medications that help relieve painful swallowing are mouth rinses used directly before eating. Mesothelioma patients with a mouth or throat infection such as a fungal infection like thrush can be prescribed medication to treat the infection.
Cancer Patients Swallowing Dysfunction – Best Bets
Even when it comes to cancer patients swallowing dysfunction, every person is different. Some techniques reported to help improve eating and drinking in cancer patients may work well for some but not others. Always check with an oncologist before making any changes to the diet or eating patterns. Inquire whether the physician or cancer treatment center offers nutrition counseling services for individual dietary advice. Ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. Experiment with different types of foods and ways of eating to find what may be helpful.
No matter what, the most important nutrition goal for a mesothelioma patient should be to consume a healthy diet that provides enough calories, protein, and vitamins and minerals. This is important to helping maintain weight, energy and help resistance to infection.
- Here are some best bets to counter cancer patients swallowing dysfunction:
- Eat soft smooth foods such as ice cream, yogurt, pudding, and creamed soups
- Soften or moisten dry foods by mashing or blending them with water, broth, sauce, butter, or milk.
- Try thickening liquids by mixing in gelatin, tapioca, baby rice cereal, or corn starch. Thicker liquids can be easier to swallow.
- Use a straw to drink liquids and soft foods.
- Puree foods if that makes swallowing them easier
- Take small bites, and chew slowly and thoroughly.
- Sit upright when eating or drinking.
- To combat weight loss, eat small, frequent meals, and select foods that are high in calories and protein, such as eggs, milkshakes, casseroles, smoothies and nutritional shakes.
- Avoid dry, coarse, or hard foods and foods such as crackers and chips
- Try cool foods like sherbet, popsicles and ice cream to relieve pain
- Meet with a speech pathologist to learn what foods may be easiest or safest to swallow and how to prepare them.
Cancer Patients Swallowing Dysfunction Risks
Cancer patients swallowing dysfunction may worsen as mesothelioma progresses. A mesothelioma patient may experience a type of choking that feels as though food is stuck in the throat or the chest. This may occur several seconds after swallowing. Mesothelioma patients with cancer patients swallowing disorder may produce excessive saliva as the body’s attempt to assist with swallowing. They may also become nauseated and develop an aversion to certain foods. These could be foods of a certain texture, flavor or temperature. It is best to avoid these and help a mesothelioma patient find the most beneficial foods that appeal to him or her.
Mesothelioma patients may have difficulty swallowing solid food, but can swallow liquids easily. But as mesothelioma advances, even this can be become challenging. Pressure surrounding the esophagus can make even liquids difficult to swallow.
The risk at this level of cancer patients swallowing dysfunction is that a mesothelioma patient may not be receiving the necessary adequate nutrition levels needed to maintain body weight and a level of well-being needed to optimize mesothelioma treatment. There may be a risk of malnutrition, dehydration and excessive weight loss. It is of utmost importance to consult with the oncologist and if possible a registered dietitian to discuss all options such as intravenous feeding.