Modern Treatment of Early Gastric Cancer: Review of the Japanese Experience

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Background:Recently, detections of early gastric cancer (EGC) have been increasing, and the treatment strategies for gastric cancer have been changing. To demonstrate recent clinical experience of EGC in Japan and to assess modern strategies for the treatment of EGC, we investigated the English-language literature of the past 10 years through computer searches.Methods:This article intends to provide gastric surgeons with recent Japanese experience of the treatment for EGC. In a search for modern treatments of EGC, we selected 100 papers published in well-known medical journals, and focused on the following items of EGC: (1) prognostic factors, (2) endoscopic treatment, (3) surgical procedures, and (4) Japanese guidelines.Results:The most important factor influencing the survival of patients with EGC is the status of lymph node metastasis. The incidence of lymph node metastasis is 1-3% for mucosal cancers and 11-20% for submucosal cancers. Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) is a technique for the treatment of EGC, and the recent indication includes the tumors confined to the mucosa up to 3 cm in size or those invading the superficial submucosa. Surgical procedures include conventional Billroth I gastrectomy, limited resections, and laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic wedge resection using the lesion-lifting method and laparoscopy-assisted distal gastrectomy provide less pain, faster recovery and shorter hospital stay. Guidelines for the treatment of gastric cancer proposed by the Japanese Gastric Cancer Association show that patients with mucosal cancer can be managed by EMR or distal gastrectomy, whereas patients with submucosal cancer are candidates for distal gastrectomy with lymph node dissection.Conclusion:Although the prognosis of patients with EGC depends on the presence or absence of lymph node metastasis, most are successfully treated by modern endoscopic or surgical techniques. Laparoscopic surgery and limited resections will contribute to the better quality of life of patients with EGC.

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