Measuring the impact of oesophagectomy on physical functioning and physical activity participation: a prospective study

BMC Cancer. 2019 Jul 12;19(1):682. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-5888-6.


Background: Oesophagectomy remains the only curative intervention for oesophageal cancer, with defined nutritional and health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) consequences. It follows therefore that there is a significant risk of decline in physical wellbeing with oesophagectomy however this has been inadequately quantified. This study prospectively examines change in physical functioning and habitual physical activity participation, from pre-surgery through 6-months post-oesophagectomy.

Methods: Patients scheduled for oesophagectomy with curative intent were recruited. Key domains of physical functioning including exercise tolerance (six-minute walk test (6MWT)) and muscle strength (hand-grip strength), and habitual physical activity participation, including sedentary behaviour (accelerometry) were measured pre-surgery (T0) and repeated at 1-month (T1) and 6-months (T2) post-surgery. HR-QOL was measured using the EORTC-QOL C30.

Results: Thirty-six participants were studied (mean age 62.4 (8.8) years, n = 26 male, n = 26 transthoracic oesophagectomy). Mean 6MWT distance decreased significantly from T0 to T1 (p = 0.006) and returned to T0 levels between T1 and T2 (p < 0.001). Percentage time spent sedentary increased throughout recovery (p < 0.001) and remained significantly higher at T2 in comparison to T0 (p = 0.003). In contrast, percentage time spent engaged in either light or moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, all reduced significantly (p < 0.001 for both) and remained significantly lower at T2 in comparison to T0 (p = 0.009 and p = 0.01 respectively). Patients reported deficits in multiple domains of HR-QOL during recovery including global health status (p = 0.04), physical functioning (p < 0.001) and role functioning (p < 0.001). Role functioning remained a clinically important 33-points lower than pre-operative values at T2.

Conclusion: Habitual physical activity participation remains significantly impaired at 6-months post-oesophagectomy. Physical activity is a measurable and modifiable target for physical rehabilitation, which is closely aligned with patient-reported deficits in role functioning. Rehabilitation aimed at optimising physical health in oesophageal cancer survivorship is warranted.

Keywords: Health-related quality of life; Oesophageal cancer; Physical activity; Physical functioning; Survivorship care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Esophagectomy / adverse effects*
  • Esophagectomy / methods
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors