Minimally invasive approaches for early gastric cancer in East Asia: current status and future perspective
East Asia is well known as a region with higher incidences of gastric cancer compared with the rest of the world. This region has also experienced a rise in the detection of early gastric cancer (EGC) for the past three decades. The success of nationwide screening programs conducted in Japan or South Korea, increasing public awareness of gastric cancer, improved diagnostic ability of gastroenterologists and the aging population of modern societies may all contribute to the increase in EGC detection rates. Along with the increasing diagnosis of EGC, several key advances in the minimally invasive approach to EGC treatment have been made. Endoscopic resection is an ideal procedure for lesions without lymph node involvement, and its indications have expanded based on the results of prospective studies. Laparoscopic surgery with lymph node dissection has been becoming a standard treatment for EGC patients. Additionally, robot-assisted surgery is penetrating the field of gastric cancer surgery as surgeons pursue a more accurate minimally invasive approach with reduced morbidity rates. However, prolonged operation time and high cost remain problems to be solved for robot-assisted surgery. In this context, function-preserving surgery has become ever more important and should be considered as a method to enhance patients’ quality of life after a gastrectomy for EGC. Pylorus-preserving gastrectomy or proximal gastrectomy is more frequently employed in East Asia and strategies that employ sentinel node (SN) navigation to personalize function-preserving surgery in clinical practice are emerging as several prospective studies investigate its efficacy.