Objective: To evaluate differences in clinical appearance and survival rates in patients operated on for adenocarcinoma in the distal esophagus with and without Barrett epithelium.
Design: Prospective clinical study.
Setting: University hospital, Sweden.
Patients: Fifty-four patients with adenocarcinoma in the distal esophagus with (n = 17) or without (n = 37) Barrett epithelium.
Intervention: Esophagectomy or total gastrectomy.
Main outcome measures: Preoperative symptoms, endoscopic results, and histological findings; postoperative morbidity, mortality, and survival rates.
Results: The main indication for the endoscopic examination that revealed tumor in the group with Barrett esophagus was reflex-related symptoms in 6 patients (routine Barrett examination, n = 4; symptoms of reflux, n = 2), symptoms related to upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding in 6, and malignant symptoms in 5 (dysphagia, n = 4; weight loss, n = 1). In contrast, most patients in the cardia cancer group were admitted because of malignant symptoms (dysphagia, n = 26; epigastric pain, n = 9; and anemia, n = 2). Ten of 17 patients in the Barrett esophagus cancer group had tumors limited to the mucosa and submucosa only. In 1 patient the tumor grew into the muscular layer but not through it. In the remaining 6 patients the tumor did grow through the muscular layer and lymph node metastases were found. Wall penetration was found in 30 patients and metastases to lymph nodes in 29 patients in the cardia cancer group. The hospital mortality rate was 0 of 17 patients in the Barrett cancer group and 2 of 37 patients in the cardia cancer group. In the patients operated on for adenocarcinoma in the distal esophagus, a better long-term survival rate was seen in those with Barrett epithelium (50%) than in those without this metaplasia (10%) (log rank P = .005; X2 = 7.80).
Conclusions: Concomitant Barrett epithelium improved the prognosis for patients with adenocarcinoma in the distal esophagus. Probably the reason for this was a higher rate of early-stage disease, because symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux and other benign disorders, not dysphagia, were most common in patients with adenocarcinoma without Barrett epithelium in the distal esophagus.