Swallowing more difficult since chemo started

Dear all, 

My.dear mum (previously active & healthy 73 yr old) was diagnosed with T2/3 oesophageal cancer in February after experiencing swallowing difficulties. She is undergoing 2 rounds of chemo (one day's IV then 3 wks oral) before reassessment with a view to surgery. She was pretty poorly the first week and a half but since then is mostly just extremely tired and not suffering unduly with nausea or sickness thankfully. 

My main reason for writing is that her swallowing seems to have got considerably worse since the chemo started and I wondered if others had this experience too? It seems slightly easier early Inthe day eg breakfast but by teatime she is basically having to liquidise everything and even then often not managing. Does anyone know if the chemo exacerbate this for some reason? 

Any help or advice would be very much appreciated indeed.

Thanks so much for the helpful and valuable resource that you all provide.

Kind regards, 


8 Replies

  • Jill

    This is very possibly a reaction to the chemo. I would suggest that she speak to the Oncologist or Chemo nurses to be sure. 

    We are also into the hay fever season. I suffer and right now my throat is closed and sore. 

    Good luck. 


  • Thanks so much for your reply, really helpful to know that this can be perfectly normal, will plod on a day at a time and remain patient. 

    Kind regards, 


  • Thanks so much Bruce, good to hear it may be just a normal reaction to the chemo but thanks too for your encouragement to chat things over with her oncology nurse - will definitely encourage her to indeed do that! 

    Kind regards


  • In my case the chemo worked wonders but not until after the three week cycle was complete and then I started eating as normal allowing me to build myself up for the op, good luck

  • Dear Jill,

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mum.    This is such a horrible cancer and the three rounds of strong chemo can be so debilitating.   My husband was able to swallow food a little better after the second round of chemo after not being able to swallow solid food at all before he started treatment but the oncologist warned us that this might not continue as the tumour often changes shape during chemo and can cause another obstruction.  This may well be happening to your mum but ask her clinical team for clarification.  It might be a good idea for your mum or you to prepare all the food she needs for the day early in the morning or when she is at her most energetic so when her difficulty in swallowing kicks in later in the day she has a liquidised meal ready in the fridge that just needs heating through when she is feeling at her tiredest and eating is most difficult.  Fortisip drinks and fortified soups are good to keep in the fridge too if she isn't able to swallow liquidised food. You can make ice lollies from  Fortisip which makes a nice change and are often easier to get down than the drinks themselves.  Don't forget to have lots of rest yourself (easier said than done, I know) as you and your mum have a tough journey ahead and you will need lots of stamina to help her through.  I wish you all the best and keep using this site as it is such a great support and no question is too small or too silly to ask - someone will always have the answer you are looking for.  My best wishes to you and your mum.  Val

  • Dear Val, 

    Thanks so much for your kind and helpful reply, really appreciate your sensitive and helpful advice. This is a fantastic site. My best wishes to you and your dear hubbie who have been travelling this hard path too. 

    Kind regards, 


  • Sometimes the chemo will have an effect on the tumour and make swallowing easier - it all depends, and this might be more true for the larger tumours.   Reaction to the chemo is a very individual thing though, and it does not mean that the chemo is not doing its job.

    It can have an effect on the saliva / taste buds, and I am wondering if it might help your Mum to concentrate on keeping drinking, keeping her mouth well moistened, and have soothing things like honey / yoghurt (or something else if taste excludes those).

    Dental and oral hygiene can be very important, and a visit to the dentist is always recommended if she has the energy for this.

    Fatigue is a very normal reaction - the body has to do a lot of fighting of the disease and it saps the energy.   The more she rests the better, even if she won't feel that she is being her normal character.

  • Prior to my Chemo I was only eating soft foods , My swallowing started to improve after about 3 weeks and soon went back to normal, but not before it got worse. shortly after my chemo started I started to get alot of thick phlegm when I ate anything and food was getting stuck and had to throw up to clear it. This only lasted about 2 weeks and then cleared, I assumed it wasa reaction to the Chemo. Hopefully this will be the same for your mom.

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