Objective Despite recent advances, surgery remains the mainstay for the management of rectal carcinoma. The conventional surgical treatment for low rectal carcinoma is total mesorectal excision. This results in either abdomino-perineal excision of the rectum (APER) with permanent colostomy or low anterior resection (LAR) usually with a covering stoma. Local resection is an alternative treatment option and this could be offered either using manual trans-anal resection (TAR) or transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM) if the tumour is situated higher.
Patients Patient selection is an important factor if local resection is used. No further treatment is necessary for T1 tumours with clear surgical resection margins. Conventional radical surgery should be offered for T1 tumours with close resection margins (<1 mm) or T2 tumours with higher risk of lymph node metastases. Patients were treated by postoperative chemo-radiotherapy or radiotherapy, if further radical surgery was not considered appropriate or if the patient refused further surgery. Using this approach, we describe our experience of 100 patients treated from January 1992 to June 2002.
Results Only 13 patients had surgery alone and 87 patients had radiotherapy either pre-operative (33 patients), postoperative (25 patients) or radical radiotherapy alone (29 patients). Local recurrence occurred in 10% of patients and salvage surgery was offered in over half (6 patients) of these patients. At median follow up of 33 months (range 3–120 months), the overall survival was 77% reflecting the fact that the majority of these patients were elderly with coexisting medical problems. However, cancer specific survival was 96%. More importantly, only 9 patients had colostomies and colostomy-free survival in our cohort of patients from Liverpool was 91%.
Conclusion We concluded that in selected patients, who were not medically fit (ASA 111 or above) or those who were unable to accept a permanent colostomy, local treatment could be offered with curative intent using a multimodality approach. In our experience, relapses can be salvaged effectively and we recommend a long-term close follow up policy.