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Choking and Food getting stuck

Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

My husbands tumor is at the GE junction where the esophagus meets the stomach. Increasingly the food getting stuck more and more often and harder to dislodge.

Last night was a rather frightening episode to say the least, and I was wondering if anyone who had something similar could offer any advice on the best course of action

when this happens to help relieve or dislodge or push it along. We have several weeks to go before surgery and should be beginning chemo by next week...


Thanks in advance!


Posts: 99
Joined: Dec 2012

You may want to consider soft foods for now. Mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, smoothies, pudding, yogurt, etc. If that is not an option for him, my only advice is to take smaller bites, chew it really well, then chase it with water.

Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

I was afraid the only remedy would be prevention. I guess he is at that point where he may need to eat softer foods. They did tell him to chew better and smaller bites

so I'm sure that will have a bigger impact on him at this point. Thanks for your help :)


luby's picture
Posts: 6
Joined: Apr 2013

Eating soft foods and chewing good, and washing it down with water helped my husband.  After his 2nd chemo treatment, the swallowing problem was gone due to tumor shrinkage.  I hope this will be the case with your husband.


Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

Thank you luby! 

lws's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: Nov 2014

Hi Cherbear15,

Chewing, swallowing and not choking were also my primary issues. It is a scary journey until we learn how to manage it all. After 3 surgeries for jawbone replacement and 37 weeks of intense radiation it becomes necessary to quickly learn what works. Be encouraged it can be done I assure you! 

Deathorglory's picture
Posts: 189
Joined: Jul 2013



When I started out in Spring 2008, food got stuck occasionally and I was able to dislodge it fairly easily.  This is what originally caused me to see my gastroenterologist who did an ERCP and diagnosed the cancer.  When I started the treatment of chemo & radiation prior to the surgery, my esophagus became essentially fried shut by the radiation and it was very difficult to eat.  My wife made soft foods for me (meatloaf & mashed potatoes over & over & over).  My doctors gave me liquid morphine, which really helped and "magic mouthwash" which was lidocaine based.  I found that less helpful and infinitely less pleasant.  


I hope you find something that works well for you guys,



Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

Thanks Ed ;)

I've read about the damaging effects of radiation, that's sounds awful that you went through that. :( 

Thanks for the feedback it really helps! The soft foods will certainly have to be considered probably even before radiation. 


Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

Thanks Ed. I will keep that in mind as we begin treatment on Monday...

Radiation seemingly is the tougher or the 2 from what I hear

Posts: 19
Joined: Aug 2013


I was stage 3 T2 N2. Went through the chemo and then 25 radiation treatments then transhietal surgury September 20th, 2012. Before I started chemo I was having a lot of difficulty getting food down I was eating chicken with wild rice soup but picking the chicken out. Mashed potatoes with gravy. Kfc coleslaw and mac and cheese. Spaghetti run thru a food chopper were what worked best for me. Wiithin 10 days of first chemo the tumor shrunk enough to eat normal. It was fantastic till a couple weeks later all food tasted like crud and it became no fun eating again. I used to weigh 238# but now average 185# but everyone keeps telling me I look good. Good luck through all this.


Heeran's picture
Posts: 173
Joined: Aug 2011

My mom would chew small amounts of food and then take a drink and use the drink to push the food down past the tumor. I found out later after she was diagnosed that she would "choke" or feel like she was choking and instead of alarming us or going through the choking process, she would quietly get up from the table, go to her bathroom, and suffer there so the family wouldn't see.  WHY THE HECK DID SHE DO THAT?


She did this for a along time before we got to see the GI doctor.  The GI doctor was "booked" and we didnt know better to push for an earlier appointment or go see another doctor.  We waited 3 months to see the GI doctor.  My mom just quietly suffered so she wouldn't worry the family. OMG!  I'm still upset to this day.  Who knows if it would have made a difference and she would be cured now instead of slowly dying.  I wish I would have thought about it more logically and gotten her to the doctor sooner.


Sorry, having a bad memory relapse.  Ensures, Boosts, nutritional smoothies, soft foods.  It's not worth the feeling of chocking.  

Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

Heeran my husband was doing that too until it came so suddenly he would have that panicked look in his eye and he couldn't hide it :(

Our brains sometimes amazingly work for us, and other times against us. He had swallowing issued for years (at least 20 since I've known him) so he was able to tell himself all was ok and he "was fine" or that it would eventually go away. We figure our loss of time to be a few months as well and we knock our heads together on why we just didn't or couldn't "act" 

Thank you kindly for sharing your experience and your thoughts with me. I know that couldn't have been easy and I'd give you super tight hugs if I could :) 

I will be thinking of you from here on in!



Posts: 93
Joined: Apr 2013

During my husband's treatment, his nausea got so bad he could only eat things that melted or dissolved in his mouth.  It finally boiled down to mashed potatoes, peanutbutter, ice cream, and gnocchi.  He could not drink water and still, on occasion, will have water "stick" in his throat.  This is a constant battle and it changes with different stages of treatment.  Good luck.  


Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2013

I had the same problem before surgery and it is very frightening . I found meat and bread particularly problematic. Soft foods and small mouthfuls and water helped. After chemo the tumour shrank a bit and swallowing got easier again. Good luck with the surgery too. 

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2013

I have been through chemo, radiation and chemo and finally surgery. I found that eating soft foods and it sounds crazy, but leaning forward and slightly to one side seem to help with swallowing.  My tumor was just above my stomach very similar to your husband's. After my first round of chemo the tumor shrank slightly and greatly improved swallowing.

Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2013

Thanks for sharing offering advice :) 

tcaba's picture
Posts: 41
Joined: Nov 2012

Shortly after completing my radiation therapy, which oddly enough made swallowing easier towards the end of treatment, anyway about two weeks after my last session I became so blocked that even liquids were difficult. I did find that cool as opposed to cold and warm instead of hot helped but basically anything had a difficult time going down.  The biggest danger, other than choking, obviously, is loss of weight. At one point it was 3 cans of Ensure and whatever else I could get down.  I did have a script for a lidocane slurry.  That negated the pain but did nothing for the stricture.  Eventually at week 5 I was dilated and again at week 9 as well.  So far so good!

Little t
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2015

This is a scary place to be.  My husband was diagnosed May 27 2014. We quickly went through radiation and chemo to shrink the tumor.

  Surgery was on September 11, 2014.  We are now just about 6 months out. We have had this problem with food a time or two.

My question to you is when this happens can your husband still breath and talk?

 I have been told the best thing to do is relaxe if at all possiable. When you body relaxes the food will either come up more easily or finish going down.

Believe you and me relaxing to wait for this is the hardest thing ever.  Your first instinct is to get it out asap. 

I am knew to this board and site so forgive me if I speak out of turn.

The best of luck to you both.

Hang in there.

paul61's picture
Posts: 1250
Joined: Apr 2010

Most of us who have been through surgery have had this event a time or two. Normally the food gets lodged far enough down the esophagus that it does not interfere with breathing. It is just uncomfortable and can be very frightening wondering how long it is going to take to clear. The best thing is to relax, take a few deep breaths, stay upright, and try tucking your chin into your chest and swallowing. Most people thing the best way to open your esophagus when you are swallowing is to tip your head back but actually the best way to open your esophagus is to tip your head forward.

I am now a little over 5 years out from surgery and I have learned some “rules for eating” the hard way. They include:

1. Be very careful with bread and other things that tend to clump together.

2. Chew very thoroughly and put my fork down between bites to slow my eating down.

3. Take sips of liquid between bites (I find Diet Coke tends to work best for me)

4. Don’t talk while eating

5. Take your time

6. When taking large pills take them with a sip of liquid and tip your head down before swallowing.


If find if I follow these steps I have far fewer emergencies. If it happens too often it is time to see your gastroenterologist about an endoscopy and possible expansion of the narrowed area.

Best Regards,

Paul Adams

McCormick, South Carolina
DX 10/2009 T2N1M0  Stage IIB - Ivor Lewis Surgery  12/3/2009 - Post Surgery Chemotherapy 2/2009 – 6/2009
Cisplatin, Epirubicin, 5 FU - Four Year Survivor


Posts: 27
Joined: Dec 2014

Hello! Paul

Did you ever have to go through dilatation of esophagus anastmosis after surgery. My husband went through dilatation fairly early 2 months after surgery. I am hoping that we don't have to go again and it stays patent. 

paul61's picture
Posts: 1250
Joined: Apr 2010

I was very lucky and did not need dilation after my surgery. I do have an annual endoscopy but so far I have had no issues

Posts: 4
Joined: May 2015

My problem has been two fold:

Find food that does not expand when it get wet (potato, cereals, bread,rice etc).  I can eat a small meal, but if it contains any of those, as soon as you drink, what you thought was a small amount is now 2-3 times more in volume.. which hurts... like its either going to burst your chest, or it is just going to violently come back up.

Keeping hydrated.  On those days when you just don't feel like putting anything down there, it makes it real difficult.

I did have to have 4 dilations in the year or so after my transhiatal esophagectomy (10-16-2012).

Started to have GERD.. no Cardiac sphincter left, no impediments to reflux except gravity. Tums just doesn't do much when it is the back of the mouth burning.

Yeah, sleep in an uncormfotable chesp 30 year old hospital bed with my head at 45 degrees.

Then I start haveing GERD again... but the only place for it to go was down my trachea.  that really hurts..  feels like a red hot poker shoved in you  chest.  No antacids are made to deal with stomach acid in the trachea.  Saw a pulmonoligist.. they have no inhaler or other tools either.  4-12 hours of pain and an awful, even more painful cough until the acid is treated, concenration lowers, and "wet" lungs get better.

Adhesions from Surgery.  Day to day (and more than one day) I go from const to diarh with pain as stuff moves through the adhesed areas.

I never want to go anywhere.  The meds I am on for the abdominal stuff doesn't allow alot of time.  When body says "got to go" it means within the next 5 minutes. At least the GI doc has something he keeps trying to get meds right for me.  Treating the GERD, the mechanical GI issues. But no one is treating me for any of the pain.

I do not know if this is a Reno thing,.  Judging by the way some people present in dr offices, I see pain med seekers, but I have no idea if they are truly in need or not; they are insistent.

Makes me wonder if the only way to get any real pain managment is to start tkaing street drugs and beeing a jerk at the Doc desk about it.  

Don't get me wrong.. I never would, but it is 0430, I haven't slept at all, again, I am tired, hurt and frustrated.

Needless to say, no longer have much of a social life.

So while I am still looking at the green side of the grass, it gets harder and harder to see it as a good thing.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Watch the expancile foods and how much you drink when you have a meal.  

----  get some sugar free life savers and suck on some if you have that overfull sensation that won't go away.  It can help keep stuff moving through.

Posts: 9
Joined: May 2016

Paul, just came across this thread . These are get suggestions for eating while having swallowing issues. I know Russ has gone to pureed things . I like the tip about tipping the chin down rather than up.


Tina Blondek's picture
Tina Blondek
Posts: 1566
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi Paul!

So great to see you continuing to post on this board. Thank you so much for your extremely helpful tips. They have always been wonderful.

I am thanking God that you continue to do well. Thinking of my dad daily, but am confident in knowing he is with our Lord, and we shall

meet again...without him having cancer! Keep up the good work. Hugs to you.

Tina in Va

paul61's picture
Posts: 1250
Joined: Apr 2010

Hi Tina,

So great to see a post from you again. Thanks for the good wishes. I am still here taking things “one day at a time”

 Sending best wishes and positive thoughts.

Best Regards,

Paul Adams

McCormick, South Carolina
DX 10/2009 T2N1M0  Stage IIB - Ivor Lewis Surgery  12/3/2009 - Post Surgery Chemotherapy 2/2009 – 6/2009
Cisplatin, Epirubicin, 5 FU - Four Year Survivor


Posts: 3
Joined: Jun 2016

Boost plus (360 calories) is good sold over the counter at Walmart and if he is loosing to much weight boost very high calorie (530calories) helps a lot not sold in stores you can order through Nestle only comes in vanela but I found it was less expensive on Amazon they help a lot to get through periods of difficult swallowing when food won't pass also flavorless whey protein mix just sprinkle it on the food helps to keep total protein and album an level up needed for the bone marrow to produce blood usually only need one scoop a day and it's flavorless so you can't even tell the difference for supplements like men's/women's one a day they are huge pills but trader joes has the ones that dissolve in the mouth it was a life saver for my wife hope that helps stay away from meat it it is hard to swallow and hard to digest even for people without health issues 

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