Background: Limited surgery by endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) or endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) for gastric cancer is frequently performed in many institutions. These techniques do preserve gastric function and maintain a high quality of life but may compromise survival. The treatment strategy for early tumors should therefore be based on a complete cure, and limited surgery must thus have clear indications.
Methods: D2 gastric resection was performed in 278 early gastric adenocarcinomas, and a retrospective histological review of the specimens was made. The extended indications for EMR or ESD, according to the Japanese Gastric Cancer Association Treatment guidelines for gastric cancer in Japan, were also assessed.
Results: Of the 278 early gastric cancers, 115 were mucosal (M) cancers without ulcer. No lymph node metastases were seen in these specimens. Six of the 41 specimens of M cancer with ulcers had lymph node metastases at the N1 level only. One of these had lymph node metastases from a tumor measuring less than 3 cm in size. Twenty-eight of 122 submucosal cancers had lymph node metastases (23%). Twenty of these were SM1 tumors and 5 had lymph node metastases; 4 of these 5 had lymph node metastases despite the absence of vascular invasion.
Conclusion: Three cases had lymph node metastases that met the extended criteria for EMR/ESD. EMR and/or ESD should be limited to M cancers without ulcer or differentiated-type M cancer with ulcers smaller than 2 cm. When the depth of tumor invasion is deeper than M, then a gastric resection with lymph node dissection is necessary.