Purpose: In Japan, early gastric cancer has an excellent survival rate. In the United States, the disease is less well understood, and it is viewed more pessimistically, although we have previously shown in a small series of patients good short-term survival rates in early gastric cancer as compared with advanced gastric cancer. Our purpose in this study was to determine if the incidence of early gastric cancer and the associated survival rate has changed over a 24-year period.
Patients and methods: From the records at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, 549 patients were identified who underwent gastric resection for cancer between 1960 and 1984, 69 of whom had early gastric cancer. Survival data were obtained in 63 patients. A comparison of survival rates was conducted between patients with early gastric cancer and the 1980 census figures.
Results: Over the 24-year period, the total number of resections for gastric cancer at our institution declined. However, the percentage of gastric resections that satisfied the Japanese criteria for early gastric cancer increased from 9 percent between 1960 to 1974 to 17 percent between 1975 to 1984 (p less than 0.05). Of the 69 early gastric cancers, 35 percent involved the mucosa, whereas in 65 percent the malignancy invaded the submucosa. Twenty-eight percent had lymph node involvement. For the patients for whom survival data were available, survival was better than the 1980 census (p less than 0.05). The adjusted five-year survival rate was 97 percent. Neither submucosal invasion nor lymph node involvement altered survival. Patients with type III early cancers (ulcerated), however, had a significantly greater survival rate than patients with type I (polypoid) early cancers (p less than 0.05).
Conclusion: Early gastric cancer is being diagnosed with increasing frequency and has an excellent survival rate. These findings are similar to the Japanese experience and argue for an ongoing aggressive approach to endoscopic biopsy of gastric lesions.