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Patterns of Symptoms Following Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

Pamela Ginex
Bridgette Thom
Maureen Jingeleski
Alain Vincent
Gabriel Plourde
Nabil Rizk
Valerie W. Rusch
Manjit Bains
ONF 2013, 40(3), E101-E107 DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.E101-E107

Design: Longitudinal, descriptive study.

Setting: An urban comprehensive cancer center in the northeastern United States.

Sample: 218 patients with cancer of the esophagus undergoing esophagectomy.

Methods: Symptoms were assessed by self-report before surgery, at the first postoperative visit, and at 6 and 12 months postsurgery.

Main Research Variables: Symptoms and demographic and clinical variables, including stage, treatment, gender, and comorbidities.

Findings: Patients with esophageal cancer reported numerous symptoms before and after esophagectomy. Several patterns of symptoms were identified. General cancer symptoms (e.g., pain, cough, shortness of breath, weight loss) were reported as worse after surgery but recovered to baseline by one year. A second pattern of esophageal-specific symptoms (feeling full too quickly, feeling bloated, nausea, and diarrhea) worsened after surgery and did not recover to baseline by one year. Reflux was the only symptom that did not worsen after surgery but did worsen significantly during the first year of recovery.

Conclusions: Patients with esophageal cancer experienced multiple prolonged symptoms following surgical treatment for their disease. General cancer symptoms resolved by one year post-treatment, whereas esophageal-specific symptoms worsened after surgery and did not recover to baseline.

Implications for Nursing: Identification of symptom patterns preoperatively and during recovery can assist nurses in developing intervention protocols to minimize long-term complications for patients with esophageal cancer.

Knowledge Translation: Patients with esophageal cancer are at risk for multiple prolonged symptoms following surgery. Symptom assessment should occur often after surgery and include a broad range of symptoms.

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