Purpose: Lymph node (LN) recurrence is frequently encountered in esophageal cancer. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of various factors, including loco-regional treatment of LN-only recurrence, on the survival rate. Methods: Among 941 patients who underwent curative resection for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in 2003–2016, we retrospectively reviewed 117 patients (12.4%) who developed LN-only recurrence. Results: One, 2, 3, and 4 or more metastatic LNs were found in 72, 22, 6, and 17 patients, respectively, after a median disease-free interval of 8.4 months (range 1.1–62.0). Among all cases, recurrence was out of the surgical field in 53 cases (45.3%). Recurrent LNs were controlled by loco-regional treatment in 29 (43.9%) and by chemotherapy alone in 3 patients (7.0%). The 3-year survival rates of patients who did and did not achieve local control were 53.2% and 5.2%, respectively. Univariate analysis showed significant relationships between post-recurrence survival rate and pStage I–II at initial surgery, no history of radiotherapy, recurrence in ≤ 2 LN, and loco-regional treatment of LN recurrence. Multivariate analysis identified recurrence in ≤ 2 LN (HR 0.3169, 95% CI 0.1023–0.5314, p = 0.0038) and loco-regional treatment (HR 0.1973, 95% CI 0.0075–0.3871, p = 0.0416) as the only two significant and independent prognostic factors of survival. Conclusions: Recurrence limited to ≤ 2 LN and loco-regional treatment (chemoradiotheapy or surgery) for LN recurrence were associated with favorable survival of patients with history of radical esophagectomy followed by LN recurrence. Our results emphasize the importance of local control of LN recurrence regardless of location.
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