From 1963 through 1983, 327 patients underwent resection for gastric adenocarcinoma at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Fifteen lesions (4.6%) were early gastric carcinoma (limited to the mucosa or submucosa regardless of nodal metastases). These lesions were in eight men and seven women (14 blacks and 1 white), with a mean age of 65.3 years (range: 52-80 years). Upper gastrointestinal series were obtained in 13 (6 suspicious, 2 inconclusive, and 5 normal). By comparison, endoscopy on 11 patients provided a tissue diagnosis in ten patients (90.9%). Surgical procedures ranged from total gastrectomy to a local excision, and every specimen was free of lymph node metastases. Macroscopically, there were six Type I, four Type IIb, and Type IIc, three Type III, and one with two separate lesions (IIa and IIb); microscopically, ten were intramucosal and five had submucosal invasion. Five-year survival calculated by the actuarial method was 64.2% (observed) and 100% (adjusted). This compares with 18.8% (observed) for all 327 patients. Six of the patients with early gastric cancer are alive (range: 16-219 months). The nine patients who died had no evidence of recurrent disease at the time of death. Surgical resection of early gastric carcinoma in the United States offers an excellent prognosis similar to the Japanese experience. Increased detection of gastric carcinoma in its curable stages may be achieved through early endoscopic investigation of symptomatic patients.