To get you started, we’ve put together some information about what you can expect when you become an esophageal cancer patient at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).
Early Stage or Locally Advanced Esophageal Cancer
If you have early stage or locally advanced cancer (stage I, II, or III), your first visit will most likely take place at SCCA’s Esophageal Cancer Specialty Clinic located at the UW Medicine Thoracic Surgery Clinic or Center for Esophageal & Gastric Surgery.
You’ll meet and be evaluated by a team from all of the different specialties involved in your care, including a surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and nutritionist. Together, your team members will recommend a treatment plan based on your specific situation.
Your first appointment will last about four hours. You may need to complete some diagnostic testing before the appointment. While this is a long visit, it enables us to give you a full treatment plan all in one day rather than spreading several visits out over the course of days, weeks, or even months. We encourage you to bring a family member or friend with you to provide support, take notes, and help make sure you get your questions answered.
Here’s what you can expect during your visit.
- A doctor will go over your health history, talk with you about how you are and what brought you to the clinic, and do a physical exam.
- A surgeon will meet with you to explain whether surgery is recommended for you, which procedure is preferred, and why. If you are going to have surgery in the near future, you may meet with a nurse to learn about the procedure, and you may have some pre-surgical tests.
- A medical oncologist will meet with you to talk about the role of chemotherapy in treating your disease. (Some patients go to the SCCA clinic on Lake Union to meet with the medical oncologist.)
- A radiation oncologist will meet with you to describe radiation and how this might fit into your treatment plan.
- You may also meet with a nutritionist, who will find out more about how you’re doing nutritionally. If you have any trouble with eating, the nutritionist will recommend solutions.
During your first visit, your doctors will discuss your case together and agree upon the therapies that will work best for you. When you leave your first visit, you will have an overview of your expected treatment and a plan for what to do next.
Metastatic Esophageal Cancer
If you have metastatic cancer (stage IV), your first visit will be at SCCA’s Esophageal Cancer Specialty Clinic located at the SCCA clinic on Lake Union. We encourage you to bring a family member or friend with you to provide support, take notes, and help make sure you get your questions answered.
The main treatment for metastatic disease is chemotherapy, so you will meet with and be evaluated by a medical oncologist. This doctor will review your health history and talk with you about the results of any tests, biopsies, or imaging studies you have had.
You can expect to spend about an hour with the medical oncologist, who will talk with you about chemotherapy options, including the option to participate in any clinical trials that are appropriate for your situation.
You’ll also meet with the clinical nurse coordinator, who will give you more information about receiving care at SCCA, answer your questions, and connect you with the scheduler to set up future appointments if you’ll be starting treatment here. The coordinator will also help you get to any other appointments you have at SCCA on the same day, such as if you need to go to the lab for a blood draw. Usually the coordinator sets up a nutrition consultation for new patients. He or she will also connect you with a social worker, if you would like.
When you leave your first visit, you will have an overview of your expected treatment and a plan for what to do next.
If you have come to SCCA for a second opinion, the team here will send information about your visit and our recommendations back to your primary oncologist.