Esophageal Cancer & Diet During Treatment

Esophageal Cancer & Diet During Treatment


My husband has just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. What foods should I be offering to him, as he needs both calorically dense and soft foods that he can swallow until the tumor shrinks from the radiation therapy?


It is important to maintain good nutritional intake and weight throughout treatment. Patients who maintain their weight are better able to tolerate treatment and avoid treatment interruptions. As long as it is possible and safe, it is recommended that the patient continue to eat a soft, pureed or full liquid diet. Include fruit and vegetable juices, and good protein sources like milk, powdered milk, tofu, or ice cream to keep nutrition quality high.  Liquid medical nutritional supplement drinks can also be used to meet nutrition needs. If eating begins to become difficult before, during or after treatment, or the patient is experiencing weight loss, please consult with your oncologist about having a feeding tube placed, as it can help prevent weight loss and poor nutrition. Signs that it might be time to have a feeding tube placed are: coughing or sputtering when drinking liquids, a decrease in intake due to soreness, and weight loss that continues for more than two weeks.

A Registered Dietitian at your cancer center should be able to guide you throughout your treatment regarding ways to obtain needed nutrition.  If your cancer center does not have an RD, you can locate one by accessing The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics website or searching here. Look for a dietitian in your area with knowledge in cancer or oncology.

Soft food cook book suggestions:

The original question and answer were generously donated by Diana Dyer, MS, RD a cancer survivor, registered dietitian, organic garlic farmer, and the author of "A Dietitian's Cancer Story: Information & Inspiration for Recovery & Healing from a 3-time Cancer Survivor."

Question and Answer updated by Jyoti Benjamin, MS, RD, CSO, CD, on behalf of the ON DPG.


  1. Zemanova M, Novak F, Vitek P, Pazdro A, Smejkal M, Pazdrova G, Petruzelka L. Outcomes of patients with oesophageal cancer treated with preoperative chemoradiotherapy, followed by tumor resection: influence of nutritional factors. J BUON. 2012 Apr-Jun; 17(2):310-6.
  2. Garth AK, Newsome CM, Simmance N, Crowe TC. Nutritional status, nutrition practices and post-operative complications in patients with gastrointestinal cancer. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2010 Aug; 23(4):393-401.

Page updated: January 2014