Quality of life (QoL) stays the same or gets better for many people who have undergone surgery as a treatment for esophageal cancer, although those who show early signs of impaired QoL should be identified and helped through a more intensive follow-up.

This recommendation was issued by Maryam Derogar and Pernilla Lagergren, investigators from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, who studied whether health-related QoL (HRQL) can be restored in 5-year survivors of esophageal cancer surgery.

As DeRogar and Lagergren reported in Journal of Clinical Oncology, most people who survive esophagectomy for cancer recover HRQL to a level comparable to that of a corresponding background population, but HRQL deteriorates considerably for some.

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The majority of 117 Swedish adult esophagectomy patients indicated on assessment forms 5 years after surgery that their HRQL remained stable or improved over time. For example, 86% had equal or better physical function 5 years after surgery and received a mean score of 87 out of 100 on this factor, which compared well with the mean score of 88 recorded for 4,910 randomly selected individuals. However, the mean score for the remaining 14% of patients was 56.

In a statement announcing the findings, Lagergren noted that targeted intervention to improve HRQL of esophageal cancer survivors is often possible. For example, a person with nutritional problems can be referred to a dietitian who specializes in the problems of this patient population.