How quickly do symptoms return after treatment stops

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My mother, almost 90 but still living independently at home with my father (just turned 90) was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer at the end of July, having started having occasional symptoms - generally excess mucous causing unpleasantness when eating - from about April...she sought tests towards the end of June when the symptoms started to interfere with her very active life. The prognosis is that it was too awkward for surgery - as she is so fit and healthy for a 90 year old the hospital did discuss surgery but decided against it as the risk was too great. She is heading for round 5 of palliative chemotherapy - Xelox/Capox - of a maximum of 6. So far the treatment has been going as well as can be hoped (as the oncologist says), and certainly she seems surreally normal, which is great - eating well, still having the quality of life she was having before. 

However, it has been made clear that although the treatment is going well - and the cancer has shrunk a bit - it is still terminal...with the mean survival rate being 3-4 months after treatment ends. The real question that is bothering my mother (and we will of course ask the oncologist) is whether ending the treatment means that the symptoms will return, and, assuming that is the case, over what time period. 

Are you able to give me a feel for this? I have consulted your excellent literature, but couldn't find anything on this...sorry...

Many thanks...

  • Hi  


    Thanks for getting in touch with our online community. My name’s Louise and I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists here.

    I’m pleased you have found our literature helpful. It’s good to hear your mum’s treatment is going well, and that she remains active, is eating well and having the quality of life she had before.


    Chemotherapy can be offered for people with cancer that cannot be cured. This is also known as terminal or advanced cancer. For people with terminal cancer, chemotherapy is given to control the cancer, manage symptoms and improve quality of life.


    When chemotherapy is given to manage symptoms, most people see an improvement during treatment and afterwards. This is because the chemotherapy can still have an effect after treatment ends.


    However, because everyone is different it’s difficult to say when any symptoms may return, and over what time period. You mention you will speak with your mum’s oncologist. They are best placed to talk this through as they have access to medical records.


    Symptoms may return after treatment, but there are many ways to manage them to make the person more comfortable and improve quality of life. This might take the form of other types of treatment, depending on the person’s situation and general health, or other ways to manage symptoms such as medications. The healthcare team are there to support with manging symptoms and can refer to other services if needed.


    Sometimes it can be helpful to share experiences with others in a similar situation. We have an oesophageal cancer forum, and a family and friends forum that might be helpful for you.


    It also might be helpful to call us. One of our nurses would be happy to talk things through.


    Kind regards  

    Louise, Cancer Information Nurse Specialist  

    You can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or send us an email.  

    Our Ref:  LR/KHe