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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 60-61

Advances in rectal malignancy

Department of Surgery, Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh - 530 002, India

Date of Web Publication21-Mar-2012

Correspondence Address:
N Subbarao
Department of Surgery, Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh - 530 002
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2277-8632.94180

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How to cite this article:
Subbarao N, Vidya K. Advances in rectal malignancy. J NTR Univ Health Sci 2012;1:60-1

How to cite this URL:
Subbarao N, Vidya K. Advances in rectal malignancy. J NTR Univ Health Sci [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Nov 26];1:60-1. Available from: https://www.jdrntruhs.org/text.asp?2012/1/1/60/94180

Advances are taking place at a rapid pace in rectal malignancy. Now there is better understanding of its natural history, the pattern of recurrence, and about the precise reporting of histopathology. It is no more a single-handed approach, and for better results, a multidisciplinary team [1] headed by a surgeon is needed.

  Anatomical Considerations Top

In 2001, a National Cancer Institute panel of US has limited rectum up to 12 cm from anal verge on rigid proctoscopy. This is important, because T2 stage at the time of presentation is only 25% in colonic carcinoma, whereas nearly 50% present at that stage in carcinoma rectum. Lymph nodal spread is also nearly two-thirds in the rectum at presentation. [2]

  Staging Top

Accurate staging is important for correct assessment of prognosis. Currently, out of the many systems, American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging proposed in 2002, which further sub-divides stage III, is followed. [3]

TNM system as per AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, Sixth Edition, 2002

  Diagnosis Top


Digital rectal examination continues to be the main tool to assess fixity and probability of sphincter preservation, though its accuracy is only 65%. [2]

Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) is increasingly used for locoregional disease, though it tends to over stage large tumors and cannot assess stenotic lesions. With an overall accuracy of 75%, [2] it is ideal for mainly T1 and T2 tumors. It can even identify lymph nodes nearby.

MRI is mainly useful in conditions where TRUS cannot be done. Its accuracy in identifying local tumor and lymph nodes is almost equal to TRUS. The MRI and Rectal Cancer European Equivalence (MERCURY) study in 2007 has concluded that its T staging is similar to histopathology. [1]

Colonoscopy in all stages has increased the yield of synchronous tumors, [4] which are around 5-10%.

Distant disease

The earlier enthusiasm of diagnostic laparoscopy with ultrasound is now limited mainly to detect occult liver metastases. CT continues to be the gold standard. PET CT is more often used now because of its ability to pick up occult metastases. [2]

  Surgery Top

There is steady progress in the surgical approach to carcinoma rectum from the earlier days of Kraske's local excision. In 1908, Miles revolutionized the treatment with his concept of "zone of upward spread" and abdominoperineal resection (APR). [2] Further development occurred when Heald (1978) described the "holy plane" and total mesorectal excision, which involves excision with mesorectal fascial envelope that should extend 5 cm below the lesion. [1]

In 1991, Jacobs and Leahy approached the tumor laparoscopically, [5] and now robotic surgery is the new field of interest (Weber performed the first robotic lap colectomy in 2001). [6]

Another development is the preservation of sphincter. Patients are offered ultra-low anterior resection now for lesions as low as 4 cm from anal verge, for which routinely APR was performed earlier. This is made possible by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) study (which concluded that 1-2 cm distal margin is enough) and the availability of end-to-end anastomosis staplers. [2]

Stress is now given also to circumferential resection margin, which is the radial width from tumor to surface. Ideally, >2 mm is required which is much more than an R0 resection. [7]

Lymph nodes, important in assessing prognosis, are also more carefully resected and identified (optimum number being 12). Incomplete removal and inspection leads to under-staging.

Laparoscopic surgery

The advantage of approaching laparoscopically is established for colonic carcinoma, but some concerns like prolonged time of surgery, more positive margins, port site recurrences, urogenital dysfunction, and conversion leading to worse outcome slowed down the pace of laparoscopy in carcinoma rectum. But the advantages of good illumination, direct vision, magnification, and less tissue handling, thereby less morbidity, have renewed the interest. [6]

Local excision

Local excision has gained attention again with the introduction of transanal endoscopic microsurgery, which is mainly useful for T1 and T2 lesions and also for those with T3 who refuse APR. [8]

Adjuvant therapy

Neoadjuvant therapy is now standard practice for T4 and N stages and consists of chemoradiation. It has resulted in more sphincters being preserved. Newer techniques like intensity-modulated (IMRT), image-guided (IGRT), stereotactic body (SBRT), and intra-operative (IORT) radiation therapy are increasingly being used. [2] Chemotherapy has witnessed a sea change with introduction of newer regimens and drugs. The Multi-center International Study of Oxaliplatin/5-FU/Leucovorin in Adjuvant treatment of Colon Cancer (MOSAIC) study has established the FOLFOX regimen. Monoclonal antibodies like cetuximab and bevacizumab are under evaluation..

Locally advanced and obstructed lesions

Hartmann's procedure used to be the only recourse. Now, various methods like laser, cryotherapy, and self-expandable metallic stents are offering new hope.

Liver metastases

Now, even unresectable liver metastases are first down staged with chemotherapy and brought to resectable status. [9]

  Prognosis Top

With the recent advances in all fields, particularly with early detection, the resectability rate is now 95% and the operative mortality has come down to 5%. Nearly 50% are surviving 5 years. [10]

  References Top

1.Heald RJ. Rectal cancer in the 21 st century - Radical operations: Anterior resection, Abdominoperineal excision. In: Fischer, editor. Mastery of Surgery. 5 th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2007. p. 1542-55.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Kenneth LM, Sarah EH, David S. The multidisciplinary management of rectal cancer. Multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Surg Clin N Am 2009;89:177-215.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Robert DF, Najjia M, David JM, Howard MR, John R. Colon and Rectum. In: Townsend, editor. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18 th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2008. p. 1348-432.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Clark S. The rectum. In: Norman SW, Christopher JKB, O'Connell PR, editors. Bailey and Love's Short Practice of Surgery. 25 th ed. London: Hodder Arnold; 2008. p. 1219-39.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Tahseen Q, Daniel OL, Amjad P. Laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer: Current practice and training. Recent Advances in Surgery. Vol. 31. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers; 2008. p. 127-39.   Back to cited text no. 5
6.Anil H, Daniel OL, Amjad P. Laparoscopic Total Mesorectal Excision (TME) for Rectal Cancer. Recent Advances in Surgery. Vol. 33. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers; 2010. p. 131-46.   Back to cited text no. 6
7.Gosens MJEM, Klaassen RA, Tan-Go I, Rutten HJT, Martijn H, Van den Brule AJC, et al. Circumferential margin involvement is the crucial prognostic factor after multimodality treatment in patients with locally advanced rectal carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res 2007;13:6617-23.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Rowan JC, Neil J, McC, Mortense. TEMS for tumours of the rectum. Recent Advances in Surgery. Vol. 31. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers; 2008. p. 141-54.   Back to cited text no. 8
9.Susanne C, Yuman F. Management of disappearing colorectal hepatic metastases. Adv Surg 2010;44:269-79.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Ashok M, Bansal SL. Cancer of the Colon and Rectum. In: Ashok M, Bansal SL, editors. Diagnosis and Management of Cancer. 1 st ed. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers; 2004. p. 380-406.  Back to cited text no. 10


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