Regular exercise improves quality of life in patients after surgery for oesophageal cancer

Important new findings from World Cancer Research Fund show that taking a regular exercise programme can improve quality of life in patients after surgery for oesophageal cancer, the eighth most common cancer worldwide

29 April 2021

Leading cancer prevention and survival charity World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) today announces research findings showing that a supervised exercise programme improved quality of life and cardiovascular fitness in patients after surgery for oesophageal cancer.

The research, which was published in the British Journal of Surgery, studied 120 patients with oesophageal cancer who had undergone an esophagectomy. The patients were randomly split into two groups, with one group taking a 12-week supervised exercise programme in addition to usual care, and a usual care group. The study found that the group taking the regular exercise programme had improved quality of life and improved cardiorespiratory fitness. These findings show the significance of taking regular exercise in patients with oesophageal cancer after surgery.

Anna Diaz Font, Head of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “We know that patients with oesophageal cancer are often fatigued and have a reduced health-related quality of life and physical functioning after surgery. This study has shown that exercise can be a really useful tool for these patients to improve their quality of life and fitness. Exercise training interventions have been shown to effectively improve quality of life in patients with other types of cancer. Thanks to this research, we now know this is also true for oesophageal cancer.”

Prof Anne May, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology of Cancer Survivorship at UMC Utrecht and study author, said: “Surgery for oesophageal cancer is an extensive procedure and the risk of post-operative complications and reduced quality of life is high. These findings are so important for these patients because they show that there are interventions available that benefit not only their physical health, but also positively impact their social, mental and cognitive health too.”

Oesophageal cancer is the seventh most common cancer worldwide, with more than 500,000 new cases in 2018, accounting for 3.4 per cent of all cancers. It is the sixth most common cause of death from cancer, with an estimated 544,000 deaths (5.5 per cent of the total). Worldwide, oesophageal cancer incidence rates in men are twice as high as those in women.

WCRF is committed to saving as many lives as possible by funding cutting-edge research and providing health information on the links between lifestyle and cancer. This weekend (30 April–3 May) the charity is taking part in the ‘Captain Tom 100 Challenge’ and all money raised for WCRF will support their free online cookery classes for anyone living with cancer in the UK. These classes are designed to support anybody affected by cancer, including carers, to help improve quality of life. The challenge honours Captain Sir Tom Moore’s legacy by encouraging people to take on an activity involving the number 100, whilst donating to their charity of choice. For more information, visit the WCRF website.

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WCRF is part of a network of charities based in the UK, EU and US. This particular study was funded by WCRF’s sister charity in the Netherlands, Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds (WKOF).

For more information and media enquiries contact Annabelle Lane, Senior Media and Communications Officer at WCRF, at a.lane@wcrf.org / 07717 131883

About World Cancer Research Fund

WCRF is the UK’s only charity solely dedicated to cancer prevention and survival. Over the last 30 years, WCRF has worked tirelessly to understand the links between a person’s weight, diet, and physical activity levels and their cancer risk. www.wcrf-uk.org and TwitterFacebookInstagram & LinkedIn.

Eat well during cancer is WCRF’s booklet for people living with and beyond cancer. It’s free to download.

WCRF’s Cancer Health Check tool and Cancer Prevention Recommendations help people understand what changes they could make to reduce the risk of getting cancer. Based on the latest scientific research, the advice is practical and simple to understand.