The Importance of Surgeon Experience in Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

Cancer Connect

The Importance of Surgeon Experience in Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

by CD Buckner MD, Medical Editor

If you’ve been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and will undergo surgery, the experience your surgeon has in performing surgery for esophageal cancer could affect your outcome.

Surgery for esophageal cancer often involves surgical removal of the entire esophagus, a procedure called an esophagectomy. For patients with very early-stage cancer, however, it may be possible to preserve the esophagus by removing only the cancer.

Doctors who treat more patients with a particular condition are considered “high volume” doctors. Studies have reported that these high-volume doctors have better patient outcomes for the specific conditions they treat. Research has shown that esophageal cancer is among the cancers for which this is true; meaning that if you plan to undergo surgery for esophageal cancer, your chances of an optimal outcome are improved if the procedure is performed by a high-volume surgeon.

In addition to surgeon volume, surgeon training (or specialty) can also improve outcomes in surgery for esophageal cancer. Thoracic surgeons have specialty training and are certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Studies have shown that mortality rates are reduced among patients treated for esophageal cancer by thoracic surgeons compared with those treated by surgeons without specialty training.

Tip for Patients

Because surgeon experience and specialty training could improve your outcome following surgery for esophageal cancer, you may wish to speak with your prospective surgeon about the amount of these types of surgeries he or she has performed as well as whether or not he or she has received specialty training and is a Board-certified thoracic surgeon.