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Lancet Oncol. 2003 Aug;4(8):481-8.

The role of surgery in the management of oesophageal cancer.

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Department of Surgery, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


In the absence of medical contraindications to surgery, resection is the mainstay of treatment for localised oesophageal cancer. Advancements in preoperative staging and imaging, anaesthesia delivery, surgical technique, and postoperative care, now enable the surgeon to safely operate on patients with oesophageal tumours and to tailor the procedure on the basis of performance status, tumour location, and extent of disease. During the past 10 years, several "minimally invasive" techniques, which aim to limit the extent of resection, have been introduced; these procedures are currently being investigated for use in both staging and treatment of oesophageal malignant diseases. Despite these accomplishments however, overall 5-year survival remains disappointing: less than 25% of patients live for 5 years after oesophagectomy. For patients with locally or regionally advanced disease (stage IIa, IIb, III, and IVa), combining several treatment approaches, either with or without surgery, can result in good objective responses and, in some patients, durable survival. The role of surgery in such combined modality approaches is still evolving and some investigators have challenged its worth. To provide a definitive review of the issues involved, we outline the types of surgery used to treat cancer of the oesophagus and summarise the available data about their effectiveness. Clinical outcomes, the value of preoperative chemoradiotherapy, and the use of surgery are all considered.

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