We studied the surgical treatments of patients with either esophageal cancer reaching to the muscularis mucosae (m3) or with a slight invasion of the submucosa (sml). We reviewed the records and examined the clinicopathological features of 29 patients with m3 or sm1 esophageal squamous cell carcinoma who had undergone surgery. Lymph node metastasis was noted in 6.3% (1 patient) of patients with m3 cancers and in 38.5% (5 patients) of those with sm1 cancers. The incidence of lymph node metastasis was higher in the sml than in the m3 group, but the difference was not significant. Lymphatic invasion (ly) was noted in 12.3% (2 patients) of patients with m3 cancers and in 53.8% (7 patients) of those with sm1 cancers. The incidence of ly was significantly higher in the sm1 group than in the m3 group (P<0.05). In a multivar-iate analysis of factors for predicting lymph node metastasis, the presence of ly was the only significant predictor (P<0.05). The preoperative diagnostic accuracies of endoscopic ultra-sonography (EUS), esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and an upper gastrointestinal series (UGS) for predicting depth of invasion were 27.8, 31.0 and 41.4%, respectively, with the majority of the misdiagnoses being overestimations. In conclusion, we suggested that ly is associated with lymph node metastasis in m3 or sm1 esophageal cancer. This association is significant for treatment-related decision making.
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