Principal investigator Pernilla Lagergren of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm said globally, esophageal cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer, but the prognosis is poor -- only 10 percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis.
The disease is often discovered in a late stage after symptoms such as swallowing difficulties and weight loss appear, and requires extensive surgery, often of the abdomen, chest and throat. About 30 percent of patients survive the operation at least five years.
The study included 117 patients who had surgery for esophageal cancer in Sweden from 2001 to 2005 and survived at least five years. The patients were asked to answer a quality of life questionnaire.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found most patients had an unchanged or even improved quality of life, and one that was comparable with that of the normal population. However, 1-in-6 patients experienced a considerable deterioration in quality of life.
"The patients who show early signs of impaired quality of life should be identified and helped through a more intensive follow-up to avoid a persistently low quality of life," Lagergren said in a statement.