In the twentieth century, lymph node dissection based on metastatic distribution has developed as the standard procedure for surgical management of gastrointestinal cancer . The fear that invisible micrometastases might be present has encouraged aggressive resection with lymphadenectomy to control the disease. However, the prognostic benefits of extensive surgery are still unknown and the universal application of radical surgery may affect surgical morbidity, mortality, and quality of life after surgery, particularly in patients without lymphatic spread. In the twenty-first century, a novel technology to detect micrometastases without extensive surgical resection is required to establish an individualized surgical management approach to gastrointestinal cancer. Lymphatic mapping techniques are now used in the control of superficial malignancies, such as malignant melanoma and breast cancer, providing a novel tool that may also be of use for gastrointestinal cancers.
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