The appearence of distant metastases or local recurrence is assumed to render gastric cancer incurable. However, experience with colorectal cancer has shown that patients with recurrent disease may have a chance for cure, if recurrent or metastatic disease can be completely resected. Since improved imaging allows detection of ever smaller tumour deposits, we have reviewed the pertinent literature to determine the current surgical options for recurrent or metastatic gastric cancer. Metastatic disease or local recurrence is rarely resectable. Tumour recurrence in the remnant stomach after partial gastrectomy can be treated by secondary total gastrectomy and may occasionally result in long-term survival. Other types of local recurrence are generally not amenable to complete resection. The same is true for distant metastases. If, however, distant metasases are technically resectable, 5 year survival of approximately 20% has been documented. Solitary and late appearing metachronous tumours are associated with an improved prognosis. As a consequence resection of distant metastases should be considered, because the risk of metastasectomy is generally low and there is no alternative treatment with a chance for cure.
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