Objectives: To substantiate reports of increasing proportions of gastric adenocarcinoma of diffuse histologic type and in the proximal portion of the stomach, to better understand the prognostic features that govern survival, and to determine whether alterations of operative strategy might improve the surgical results.
Design: Retrospective analysis of 289 consecutive patients with gastric adenocarcinoma operated on by general surgeons over a 26-year period. Records were reviewed for location, histologic type, resection, operative mortality, lymph node status, and outcome.
Setting: The Section of Surgical Oncology, the New England Deaconess Hospital, Boston, Mass.
Main outcome measures: Survival rate, length of life of the patients who died, and operative mortality.
Results: A marked and significant shift of gastric adenocarcinoma to a proximal location (54% between 1985 and 1990) occurred over 26 years (P = .0075) with a significant stage improvement at presentation (P = .0235). Percentages of cancers that were of the diffuse, poorly differentiated histologic type increased to 48%. More curative operations were performed in the last period (61%), and this upward trend from 37% was significant. Proximal gastric cancers had a poorer prognosis with more operative deaths, more lymph node metastases, and worse survival rates than distal cancers. Poor survival rates occurred even when comparing patients with negative lymph nodes or favorable histologic features with patients with similar distal cancers.
Conclusions: Despite significant increases in the proportion of proximal cancers, survival rates have improved only slightly. Nodal status plays a less prognostic role than does location or histologic type but does provide prognostic information for individual locations. Survival rates for diffuse histologic cancer were consistently worse than those for intestinal histologic cancer, which emphasizes the underlying disease biology controlling outcome. Radical lymphadenectomy for gastric adenocarcinoma would not improve surgical outcome in the United States.