Weight maintenance can be an especially critical issue for head and neck cancer patients due to the location of their cancer. Feeding tubes are often put in place during surgery to remove the cancer. At times the patient may have difficulty getting adequate nutrition due to the surgical procedure itself. Other times the feeding tube is put in place in anticipation of other treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy. Feeding tubes may also be put into place separate from any surgical procedures. For example, if a patient is losing too much weight during radiation the oncologist may opt to have a feeding tube put in place.
Feeding tube (front)
Feeding tube (side)
Homemade leak prevention
Feeding tubes are not painful and are not easily visible when wearing normal clothes (other than tight-fitting tops). If the only nutrition is being taken this way, you may experience some heartburn. Be sure to talk to your healthcare worker if you experience any problems.
Mike had his feeding tube put into place during his surgery. The first few days in the hospital he was fed continuously, similar to having an IV in place. After that he was shown how to feed himself using the bulb and syringe (shown above) and he took over his own feedings. With his palate removed and the swelling in his throat, he was initially unable to take anything by mouth. Liquids were slowly added and by week three he was eating some foods. He continued taking nutrition through his feeding tube until he was eating normally.
Once he started his radiation treatments, he initially found himself having to supplement his diet again. By the end of the first two weeks the side effects were severe enough that he had to return to using the PEG full-time.
TIP: If you find your feeding tube leaking, you can fold the end back on itself and put a rubber band around it. (see the photo on the right) Mike always carries an extra rubber band with him.