Objective: The major purpose of this study was to document the modes of presentation, diagnostic methods, clinical management, and outcome of gastric cancer as reported by tumor registries of US hospitals and cancer programs approved by the American College of Surgeons.
Summary background data: Gastric cancer continues to diminish in the US, but the stage of disease and survival outcome after surgical resection is unchanged despite increased availability and sophistication of diagnostic techniques. This is in contrast to the marked improvement in survival outcome in Japanese and other Eastern series over the last decades. Possible reasons for the improved Japanese results have been earlier detection secondary to active diagnostic surveillance of the population and widespread adoption of aggressive surgical resection emphasizing wide-field node (R2) dissection. Although selected US centers using the Japanese approach report better survival data, the approach has not been widely adapted by US treatment centers.
Methods: Tumor registries at American College of Surgeons (ACS) approved hospitals were mailed a study protocol in 1987. They were instructed to review 25 consecutive patients with gastric cancer treated in 1982 (long-term study) and 25 patients treated in 1987 (short-term study). A detailed protocol included significant history, diagnostic results, staging, pathology findings, and treatment results. The data forms on 18,365 patients were returned and analyzed (11,264 patients in the long-term study and 7101 patients in the short-term study).
Results: Of 18,365 patients, 63% were males. The median ages were 68.4 years in males and 71.9 years in females. There was a history of gastric ulcer in 25.5% of the patients. Lesion location was upper third in 31%, middle third in 14%, distal third in 26%, and entire stomach in 10% of patients (and the site was unknown in 19%). Gastric resection was performed for 80% of upper third cancers and 85% of distal third cancers; 50% of patients with total gastric involvement had gastric resection. The extent of gastric resection varied according to location. For lower third lesions, subtotal gastrectomy was done in 55% of the cases, extended resection in 21%, and total gastrectomy in 6%. For proximal lesions, 29% had subtotal, 4.6% had total, and 41% had extended gastrectomies (including esophagus), and 13.6% had dissection of celiac nodes. The operative mortality rate was 7.2%. Staging (American Joint Committee on Cancer [AJCC]) was as follows: I, 17%; II, 17%; III, 36%; and IV, 31%. The overall survival rate reflecting deaths from all causes was 14% among 10,891 patients diagnosed in 1982, and it was 19% in patients having resection. The disease specific survival rate was 26%. The survival rate after resection was 19% and 21% for lower and mid third cancers, 10% for upper third cancers, and 4% if the entire stomach was involved. The stage-related survival rates were 50% (stage I), 29% (stage II), 13% (stage III), and 3% (stage IV). Among patients with pathologically clear margins, the survival rate was 35% versus 13% in those with microscopically involved margins, and it was 3% in those with grossly involved margins.
Conclusion: This report of gastric cancer treatment by American College of Surgeons approved institutions in the US provides an overview of the disease as commonly treated throughout the US. Although the results are less favorable than those reported by centers with large institutional experiences with this disease and are inferior to those of the Japanese and other Eastern centers, they suggest potential for increasing survival by upstaging through earlier diagnosis and using resectional techniques demonstrated to more adequately control local regional disease.