Severe reflux, sleep disturbances, and health-related quality of life after esophageal cancer surgery

J Cancer Surviv. 2021 Dec;15(6):818-824. doi: 10.1007/s11764-020-00974-9. Epub 2021 Jan 27.


Purpose: Esophagectomy for cancer is an extensive procedure often followed by severe complications. This study investigated whether patients with severe symptoms of reflux are more likely to have sleep disturbances and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQL) after esophagectomy.

Methods: This Swedish nationwide prospective cohort study encompassed all patients who had undergone esophagectomy for cancer between 2013 and 2018. One year after surgery, the patients responded to three questionnaires on reflux (EORTC QLQOG25), sleep disturbances (KSQ), and HRQL (EORTC QLQ-C30). Multivariable logistic regression provided odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for sleep disturbance/reduced HRQL between patients with and without reflux, adjusted for potential confounders.

Results: Among 241 esophagectomy patients, 66 (27%) reported severe reflux. Patients with reflux had an increased risk of sleep disturbances (OR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.3-4.3) compared to patients without reflux. More specifically, these patients were more likely to suffer from poor sleep quality (OR 4.9, 95% CI: 1.9-12.4). Patients with reflux and sleep disturbances reported reductions in global quality of life, role function, emotional function, social function, and more symptoms in all scales, except for dyspnea.

Conclusions: This study suggests that patients with severe symptoms of reflux after esophagectomy have an increased risk of sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality, which in turn are associated with reduced HRQL.

Implications for cancer survivors: Alleviating reflux after oesophageal cancer surgery is important, since this common symptom might reduce HRQL and well-being.

Keywords: Cancer survivorship; HRQL; Insomnia; Oesophageal neoplasm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Esophagectomy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sleep Quality
  • Surveys and Questionnaires