There are a number of different approaches to the surgical procedure, depending on the size and position of the tumour and whether or not it has spread. The most common type of operation is where the section of the oesophagus containing the tumour is removed. The remaining part of the oesophagus is attached to the stomach. Sometimes the top part of the stomach is also removed. Lymph nodes in the area affected are also taken out to see if the cancer cells have spread into them. You can ask your surgeon exactly what operation you were given.
This operation involves the total removal (total gastrectomy) or the partial removal of the stomach (partial gastrectomy). Which operation you will be given depends on the size and position of the tumour. If you have a total gastrectomy, the top part of the small bowel (the jejunum) is joined on to the bottom of the oesophagus. If only part of the stomach has been removed the small bowel is joined to the remaining part of the stomach. This means that the food you eat will pass almost immediately from the stomach into the small bowel.
Ask your clinical team for more detail if you need to better understand your condition. You may find that a clearer understanding will help you cope.
Some patients are offered keyhole surgery or laparoscopic surgery to have all or part of their stomach removed. Doing the operation in this way means you will only have a small opening or openings instead of larger cuts. Consequently your recovery may be quicker but you should not underestimate the seriousness of your operation.
In conjunction with other OOSO members we have written a booklet that brings together the best of our knowledge. It starts with the basics, touches on what to do before surgery and describes how you might best recover from your operation. It combines many years of patient experience, has been checked and edited by experts from the medical team, and is titled
Life after an Oesophagectomy or Gastrectomy
They say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" so we're flattered that our booklet is already appearing on other web sites - albeit without any acknowledgement to the Oxford Team. If you'd like to download an original copy, click here.
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Cancer of the oesophagus is uncommon in the UK. However the numbers are increasing with about 8,000 cases in 2011. The most common type (adenocarcinoma) occurs when the mucus producing glands in the lining of the oesophagus become cancerous. Another, less common type of cancer of the oesophagus is squamous cell carcinoma which develops cancerous cells in the thin, flat cells lining the oesophagus and usually occurs more commonly in the upper and middle regions.
Oesophageal and stomach cancer is not infectious and CANNOT be passed from one person to another