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Returning to work

Get Well Soon

Helping you make a speedy recovery after surgery to remove a cancer of the gullet or upper stomach

Returning to work

Patients returning to work after an oesophagectomy will need to think about how to balance work and recovery.

Fact: Work can be part of your recovery

Everyone needs time off to recover after an operation – but too much can stand in the way of you getting back to normal. In fact, by staying off for too long, people can become isolated and depressed. Getting back to your normal routine sooner rather than later will play a big part in preventing this.

Getting back to work

How quickly you can return to work depends on a number of things:

  • How you heal
  • How you respond to surgery
  • The type of job you do

People whose work involves a lot of heavy lifting, standing up, or walking for long periods will not be able to return to work as quickly as those who have office jobs, which are less demanding physically.

How soon can I go back?

Every person recovers differently and has different needs. In most cases it’s usually safe to return to work between 2–4 months after the operation. Your consultant or GP will advise you on this.

Whilst surgery is the mainstay of treatment of oesophageal and oesophagogastric cancer, recent studies have shown some benefit from giving chemotherapy before and possibly after the operation. If you have chemotherapy postoperatively, this can delay getting back to work after surgery; however, most patients having chemotherapy before the operation should have recovered from the treatment by the time they have their surgery. 

If you have a long commuting distance it can be easier to start with just a couple of days work each week with a day or two at home in between. If you want to work every day, then start with just a couple of hours a day to see how you cope, and if you start to feel very tired towards the end of the week, be prepared to stay at home for a day or two. Start with administrative duties and very light manual handling, and build up gradually over 3 or 4 weeks to heavier work.

You may find you just can't cope with very heavy work. Ask your employer if you can change your duties, or adjust rest breaks to help you.

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