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Oesophageal cancer: treatment

So, after finding out that cancer is there, and that it’s inoperable, what is the treatment?

Chemotherapy. It hasn’t started yet, but at the moment the plan is that I will have three rounds of three weeks of a triple-prescription known as ECF. One of those will be on a continuously pumped drip, so I shall have to wear a pack around my waist and have a PICC line fitted. At the end of the third round, we’ll do another CT scan to see whether the tumour has shrunk, and if things are going well, we’ll do another three rounds. I’ll be on a drip for up to 18 weeks.

But before any of this happens, I have to undergo yet more tests. Specifically, my kidney function has to be checked to ensure it is good enough for the cisplatin, one of the three ECF drugs.

Also, they have to get rid of the obstructive jaundice that has just appeared. When I started going yellow, I was seriously worried as cancer spreading to the liver is a very bad sign indeed, and jaundice is a sign of liver malfunction. But I have other signs (pale stools and dark urine), which strongly indicated this other form of jaundice, and an ultrasound scan yesterday confirmed that my bile duct was unusually enlarged, and probably blocked. An endoscopy is the normal treatment.

So, with a little luck and a fair wind I hope my treatment will start next week.

However, it hasn’t all been grim. Yesterday’s ultrasound scan was quite funny as they had just installed a brand new, state of the art machine that day, and the rep was there to help the radiologist find her way around it. But it was new. It didn’t work like the other one. Its controls were too sensitive, the screen too dark, and buttons weren’t where she expected to find them. She sounded like a slightly petulant manager whose laptop upgrade had moved all his icons and replaced his mouse with one that didn’t have any fluff in it, so that it actually worked properly.

“But I hate switching machines all the time,” grumbled the radiologist, trying to find a reasonable thing to complain about.

“You won’t have to once I change all the machines in the department,” growled the rep, and the conversation was over. Wonderful stuff! You couldn’t make it up. Gillian and I both laughed, but we managed to wait until we were in the car going home.