Esophageal Cancer Surgery Can Leave Lingering Health Problems, Study Says

FRIDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery for esophageal cancer can result in lingering health problems for long-term survivors, a new study finds.

Common complaints among patients who survived for five years after esophageal cancer surgery include breathlessness, fatigue, insomnia and eating problems, according to researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Patients who experienced a serious complication after surgery reported worse symptoms.

The study was published online April 2 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Patients who suffer serious post-operative complications after surgery for esophageal cancer need very close, long-term monitoring so that any problems that arise can be identified and targeted quickly," said study research team member Maryam Derogar, a doctoral student at the department of molecular medicine and surgery, in a journal news release.

The operation for esophageal cancer, which involves the abdomen, chest and throat, is performed on one-quarter to one-third of patients with the disease. Of these surgical patients, about one-third survive for at least five years after surgery.

The researchers followed 141 patients who had surgery for esophageal cancer in Sweden over four years. In the five years after surgery, about one-third experienced at least one complication, such as severe infection or chronic breathing problems.

The patients were also asked to rate their quality of life. One in six patients had a quality of life well below the national average.

The researchers found those who had a serious complication from their surgery experienced more breathlessness, fatigue, insomnia, heartburn and eating problems than those who did not have complications, and that those symptoms persisted for years.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on esophageal cancer.

SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, April 3, 2012

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