Background: Prognosis for patients with early gastric cancer after surgical resection is excellent. The 5-year or even 10-year survival is more than 90%. In the present study, we investigated the result of treating early gastric cancer surgically in our hospital, with special reference to the risk factor(s) for tumor recurrence and the relationship between age and survival. Patients and Methods: From January 1988 to December 2002, a total of 479 patients with early gastric cancer underwent resection by our surgeons. Results of preoperative studies, operative findings, histopathology and postoperative follow-up were recorded respectively, and the postoperative disease-related survival, overall survival, tumor recurrence and recurrent patterns were analyzed. The clinicopathological factors were also analyzed to identify the risk factor(s) related to tumor recurrence. Results: Older patients (>75 years old) had a poorer overall survival than younger patients. However, the disease-related survival was not significantly different between the two. Recurrence was observed in 21 patients, the most important factor of which was lymph node status. Lymph node metastases occurred in 54 patients (11.3%)-coming from mucosal tumors in 12 patients (4.4%) and from submucosal tumors in 42 (20.3%). When the size of the mucosal tumor was smaller than 1 cm, no lymph node metastasis was found in our patients. Conclusions: The most important risk factor of recurrence in early gastric cancer is lymph node status. Given the low probability of lymph node metastasis and recurrence in tumors less than 1 cm in diameter limited to the mucosa, more limited surgery maybe appropriate in these carefully selected instances.
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