This presentation describes interim findings in a series of 319 patients referred from 41 hospitals on the basis of histopathological findings of 'early gastric cancer', 'dysplasia', or 'worrying mucosal appearances'. Data were recorded using a predefined proforma, and histopathological material circulated amongst a 'panel' of three further pathologists. After this process, 132 patients were classified as having early gastric cancer and 63 as dysplasia. There was good agreement between pathologists as to whether the cases had cancer or dysplasia - but 39 cases said by referring pathologists to have early gastric cancer were classified by the panel as having more extensive disease. Most early gastric cancer cases were diagnosed only after histopathological examination. Cancer or 'possible cancer' was only mentioned after 36% of the radiological investigations and 40.5% of the endoscopies. Computer aided analysis of the patients' symptoms placed 91.3% of the early gastric cancer cases into a 'high risk' group - but was unable to distinguish between early gastric cancer and dysplasia. The five year survival rate of the cases agreed to be early gastric cancer by the panel was well over 90%, but the four year survival rate of cases registered as 'early gastric cancer' but said by the panel to have more advanced disease was under 75%. These findings may account for some of the differences between series, and emphasise the need for precise, widely agreed criteria for the diagnosis of early gastric cancer and gastric dysplasia.
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