Objective: To analyze the changing pattern in tumor type and postoperative deaths at a national referral center for esophageal cancer in the Western world and to assess prognostic factors for long-term survival after resection.
Summary background data: During the past two decades, the epidemiology and treatment strategies of esophageal cancer have changed markedly in the Western world. The influence of these factors on postoperative deaths and long-term prognosis has not been adequately evaluated.
Methods: Between 1982 and 2000, 1,059 patients with primary esophageal squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma had resection with curative intention at a single center. Patient and tumor characteristics and details of the surgical procedure and outcome were documented during this period. Follow-up was available for 95.8% of the patients. Changing patterns in tumor type and postoperative deaths were analyzed. Prognostic factors for long-term survival were assessed by multivariate analysis.
Results: The prevalence of adenocarcinoma in patients with resected esophageal cancer increased markedly during the study period. The postoperative death rate decreased from about 10% before 1990 to less than 2% since 1994, coinciding with the introduction of a procedure-specific composite risk score and exclusion of high-risk patients from surgical resection. In addition to the well-established prognostic parameters, tumor cell type "adenocarcinoma" was identified as a favorable independent predictor of long-term survival after resection. The independent prognostic effect of tumor cell type persisted in the subgroups of patients with primary resection and patients with primary resection and R0 category.
Conclusion: Esophagectomy for esophageal cancer has become a safe procedure in experienced hands. Esophageal adenocarcinoma has a better long-term prognosis after resection than squamous cell carcinoma.