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Lymph Node Removal May Boost Stomach Cancer Survival

But more extensive procedure increased short-term side effects, study found

THURSDAY, March 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Extensive removal of lymph nodes appears to boost the five-year survival of stomach cancer patients, Taiwanese researchers report.

Surgery is considered the gold-standard treatment for gastric cancer, but there's still debate about the role of radical lymph node dissection, the researchers noted.

As reported in the April issue of The Lancet Oncology, the study included 221 gastric cancer patients randomly assigned to receive more-extensive or less-extensive surgery. The two groups' five-year overall survival was then tracked.

Patients in the more-extensive surgery group had more short-term deaths, more complications and blood loss, longer surgery times, and longer hospital stays than those who received less-radical surgery. However, patients who did undergo radical lymph node dissection had higher rates of five-year survival than those who did not -- 59.5 percent vs. 53.6 percent.

Extensive lymph node removal "offers a survival benefit for patients with gastric cancer when done by well-trained, experienced surgeons," study lead researcher Professor Chew-Wun Wu of Taipe Veterans General Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

In an accompanying article, Professor Mitchell Posner and Dr. Kevin Roggin of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine commented that "to our knowledge, this is the first study in which one group of experienced surgeons have assessed prospectively the absolute surgical effect of extended lymphadenectomy on survival with advanced gastric cancer."

However, the two experts added: "A single institutional trial with a unimodal surgical approach to advanced gastric cancer is not generalisable, and does not take into account the important contribution of adjuvant treatment."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about gastric cancer.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, March 26, 2006
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