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Get Well Soon

Helping you make a speedy recovery after surgery to remove a cancer of the gullet or upper stomach

Who this leaflet is for

This leaflet is for anyone who is recovering from, or is about to undergo, surgery to have a cancer of the gullet or upper stomach removed.

The technical term for your operation is an oesophagectomy, which is how your surgeon and other health professionals who are helping you may refer to it.

Knowing what to expect after the operation can help you to make a quicker recovery and get back to enjoying the best possible quality of life. In the pages that follow, you’ll find information that will help you do that. There are also web links to other sources of valuable information, such as the Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA) website, which contains a wealth of useful information.

Most people who have an oesophagectomy are of retirement age, but younger people do undergo this operation. The advice in this leaflet offers broad guidelines for people:

  • Who do not have any complications with their surgery
  • Whose job is not physically demanding (ie does not involve heavy lifting or long periods of standing up).

Obviously, every individual has different needs and recovers in different ways – so not all of the advice will be suitable for everybody. As always, if you’re in any doubt, take professional advice. Everyone who undergoes an oesophagectomy for cancer should have an allocated contact at the hospital (a key-worker or clinical nurse specialist), who helps to coordinate all aspects of care. They will help you to make the right choices for a safe and speedy recovery.

There are a number of different approaches to oesophagectomy, most of which involve a surgical incision of the chest wall (thoracotomy), while others use keyhole surgery (thoracoscopy). The approach that your surgeon takes will determine the location of the surgical incisions made and to some extent the pattern of recovery. The most well known are:

  • Right thoracotomy and abdominal incision (also referred to as Ivor Lewis)
  • Right thoracotomy and abdominal incision with neck incision (known as McKeown)
  • Left thoracotomy with or without neck incision
  • Thoracoscopically assisted oesophagectomy (keyhole surgery to the chest, plus abdominal and neck incision)
  • Laparoscopically assisted oesophagectomy (keyhole surgery to the abdomen, right chest, and neck).

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