Background: A clinicopathological study of early gastric cancer with submucosal invasion was carried out in relation to lymph node metastasis.
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of 245 patients with submucosal gastric cancer treated by gastrectomy combined with D2 lymph node resection between 1985 and 1994 in a university hospital.
Results: Lymph node metastasis was observed in 34 patients (14 per cent). The mortality rate due to recurrence in patients with lymph node metastasis (three of 34) was significantly higher than in those without lymph node metastasis (five (2 per cent) of 211) (chi2 = 3.95, 1 d.f., P < 0.05). Tumour size, depth of invasion, lymphatic involvement of cancer cells and preoperative diagnosis of advanced cancer correlated significantly with the presence of lymph node metastasis. When the submucosal carcinomas were classified into three categories according to depth of invasion by dividing the submucosal (sm) layer into three equal parts, sm1, sm2 and sm3, the incidence of lymph node metastasis increased from 2 per cent to 12 and 20 per cent respectively.
Conclusion: When the pathological report reveals sm1 invasion after laparoscopic or endoscopic surgery, reoperation should not be necessary because sm1-carcinomas with diameters of less than 2 cm do not usually metastasize to the lymph nodes.