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Esophageal cancer surgeries include esophagogastrectomy and esophagectomy. Both surgeries remove the cancers from the esophageal area; however, these surgeries focus on differing parts in the esophagus. Physicians could select either one of these surgeries depending on the patient's individual needs.
Esophagectomy is usually done for esophagus cancer patients still in early stages of their esophageal cancer, before the cancer has spread. This type of esophageal cancer surgery concerns removing cancerous parts in the esophagus in addition to cancer in the adjacent lymph nodes. After that, the esophagus then gets reconnected to the stomach via the stomach being stretched upward toward the esophageal area or via reconnection of the stomach with a part of the intestines.
Esophagogastrectomy involves removing lymph nodes, the upper part in the stomach, and the cancerous areas in the esophagus. The esophagus then gets reattached to the stomach by stretching the stomach area upward to the esophagus or by using a section of the colon to facilitate connecting the stomach to the esophagus. This type of esophageal cancer surgery is typically done for patients who have advanced stage esophageal cancer, which has already spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery can be done via minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. In some cases, esophageal cancer surgery can be difficult and require hospitalization. Surgery can relieve the symptoms associated with esophageal cancer such as swallowing difficulty and pain. Usually, surgery is combined with other treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
There are times when esophageal cancer surgery can result in complications, such as blood clots, infection, or heart attack. Also, after surgery, there could be leakage as a result of the newly surgically attached esophagus and stomach. In addition, the patient could experience nausea or vomiting if the stomach nerves become damaged during the surgery. Also, swallowing difficulties may continue after the surgery if there is narrowing of the esophagus or if strictures form in the connection between the esophagus and stomach.
Whether patients survive after esophageal cancer surgery or not depends on the stage of the cancer. It is known, for example, that patients who benefit the most from esophageal cancer surgery are early stage cancer patients, whose cancer was detected early and are still in relatively good health. If the cancer has spread significantly, though, surgery may not necessarily cure the cancer. Rather the surgery is done to reduce the patient's pain.