From 1958 through 1992 a total of 3603 patients underwent surgery for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in our department. Among these patients 3099 resections were performed, for an overall resectability of 86.0%. Of the resections, 2341 (75.5%) were classified as curative and 758 (24.5%) palliative. The overall morbidity and 30-day mortality rates were 23.4% and 3.8%, respectively. For resected cases the mortality was 4.0%. The more than 5-year follow-up rate of patients with resection was 97%. The actual 5-, 10-, and 15-year survival rates were 30.4%, 23.6%, and 17.9%, respectively. Recurrence or metastasis remained the cause of death in 60.9% and 25.5% of patients who lived longer than 5 years and 15 years, respectively, after operation. The TNM staging, lymph node metastasis, extra-esophageal invasion, tumor differentiation, tumor length, and category of operation were major determinants influencing long-term prognosis. The left thoracotomy approach was used exclusively in 2613 cases (84.3% of all resected cases) in which intrathoracic resections and anastomoses were performed. The stomach was used as a substitute for the esophagus in 98.8% of the resected cases compared with 1.2% colon transplants. The former procedure was far safer than the latter. Above-average results presented in this paper support the surgical policy we have pursued thus far: to resect the primary tumor by partial or subtotal esophagectomy and to remove all lymph nodes wherever they were found in all patients with disease earlier than stage III. Early detection and early treatment no doubt are the only ways to materially improve the long-term surgical results.
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