Patients with esophageal cancer often display relapse at cervical nodes after surgery, but their prognosis and a suitable therapy remains unknown. We retrospectively reviewed the records for 35 patients who underwent esophagectomy with lymphadenectomy who then displayed relapse at the cervical lymph nodes alone between 1985 and 2003 in order to observe the prognostic factors for such patients. Median survival time from the date of recurrence for all 35 patients was 12 months with 1-year, 2-year, 3-year and 5-year survival rate of 47.2%, 26.5%, 17.7% and 8.8%, respectively. With regard to the initial treatment against cervical node recurrence, 15 patients were treated by radiotherapy alone, eight by chemoradiotherapy, 11 by surgery and one by chemotherapy alone. Univariate analysis revealed that cervical node dissection at the prior esophagectomy (yes/no, P = 0.0178), time to recurrence (> 9 months/< 9 months, P = 0.0497) and the number of relapsed nodes (solitary/multiple, P = 0.0029) were significant prognostic factors. Among these factors, the number of relapsed nodes (solitary/multiple) was found to be the only significant prognostic factor with an odds ratio of 2.409 and 95% confidence interval of 1.033-5.619 by multivariate analysis. In conclusion, cervical node metastasis is generally considered to be distant organ metastasis. However, if it is a solitary node recurrence, substantial survival can be attained by appropriate loco-regional therapy.
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