Background: Adenocarcinomas of the distal third of the oesophagus and the gastric cardia have similar characteristics but different staging criteria are being used. In the present study the question is addressed whether these tumours should be regarded and staged as one clinical entity.
Methods: From January 1987 to January 1997, 252 patients with an adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus (n = 111) or gastric cardia (n = 141) underwent transhiatal resection. Pathology, pathological tumour node metastasis (pTNM) stage and survival were analysed retrospectively, and a comparison was made between tumours of the oesophagus and gastric cardia.
Results: Barrett's epithelium was diagnosed in 54 per cent of oesophageal adenocarcinomas compared with 13 per cent of adenocarcinomas of the gastric cardia (P < 0. 001). Oesophageal carcinomas had a more favourable pT stage, fewer positive locoregional lymph nodes (pN1-2 56 versus 62 per cent; P = 0.3), but more distant metastases accounted for by positive lymph nodes around the coeliac axis (pM1 19 versus 4 per cent; P < 0.001). Five-year overall survival (26 versus 27 per cent; P = 0.9) and survival according to tumour stage were no different between the groups. Multivariate analysis showed that the location of the primary tumour was not an independent prognostic factor.
Conclusion: Adenocarcinomas of the distal oesophagus and gastric cardia should be regarded as one clinical entity. Uniform staging criteria for both malignancies are recommended.