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Ann Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013;19(6):409-15. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

A history of surgery for locally-advanced (T4) cancer of the thoracic esophagus in Japan and a personal perspective.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Kurume University School of Medicine, Kurume, Fukuoka, Japan.

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  • Ann Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2014;20(2):175.


The history of esophageal surgery in Japan can be divided into three periods, an era of safety from 1930 to 1980, an era of radicality from 1980 to 2000, and the era of quality of life (QOL) from 2000 to the present. The treatment for T4 cancers of the thoracic esophagus has also changed over time from preoperative radiotherapy, combined resection of the neighboring organs with esophagectomy, and to definitive chemoradiotherapy (dCRT) with salvage surgery. At present, almost all patients with an unresectable T4 esophageal cancer receives dCRT. However, there are many patients with a residual or recurrent tumor after dCRT. Salvage surgery for such patients often results in incomplete resection of the tumor because the tumor involves the trachea and/or aorta. New techniques to enable the resection of such neighboring organs even during salvage surgery are needed. In the future, the mainstay of treatment for esophageal cancer will be CRT with the foreseeable progress in new drugs and new techniques of radiotherapy. Surgery will be indicated for a local failure after CRT, while combined resection of the neighboring organs will be necessary to treat a local failure after CRT for T4 cancers. New surgical techniques have to be developed through some application of new devices and equipment.

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