Advanced surgeries for esophageal cancer

The first step in treating esophageal cancer is to remove the cancer cells through a surgical procedure called an esophagectomy.

During an esophagectomy, a surgeon removes all of your esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach) or the part of your esophagus that has cancer cells. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes close to your esophagus if they have cancer cells. You will be asleep under general anesthesia for the entire surgery.

Once your esophagus is removed, your doctor will either rejoin the remaining parts of your esophagus or build a new esophagus out of sections of your stomach or large intestine.

Minimally invasive esophagectomy offers advantages over traditional surgery

The latest techniques for esophagectomy allow you to have a shorter hospital stay, less pain after surgery and less blood loss than with older surgeries. For minimally invasive (laparoscopic) esophagectomy, your surgeon makes a few small cuts in your upper abdomen, neck and chest. Your surgeon uses a special camera (called a laparoscope) to see throughout the surgery.

Using specialized tools, your surgeon removes your esophagus in small parts, taking it out through the incisions in your neck and chest. Your physician will then reconnect your esophagus or take small parts of your large intestine or stomach to rebuild your esophagus. Before surgery is over, your doctor will also put a feeding tube into your small intestine so you can get plenty of nutrition while your esophagus heals.

Robotic esophagectomy gives doctors super abilities

Robotic surgery is similar to minimally invasive surgery, except that your doctor uses special robotic equipment to complete the surgery. This equipment allows your doctor to see larger, 3D images of your esophagus from all angles. Your doctor can also move the surgical tools more precisely than during minimally invasive esophagectomy.

Speedier recovery gets you back to normal

After surgery, you may spend a week or two in the hospital. You won't be able to eat after surgery while your esophagus heals, so you'll get nutrition through a feeding tube in your small intestine. Doctors will help control any pain you feel after surgery and keep your surgical cuts clean. You will also take medicines to make sure you don't have any blood clots after surgery.

After you've gone home and healed fully, you should be able to eat an almost normal diet. However, you should eat smaller, more frequent meals to help reduce your risk of acid reflux.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.