Surgery for locally recurrent rectal cancer


Dr T. Wiggers, Professor of Surgical Oncology, Groningen University Hospital, Department of Surgical Oncology, PO Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, the Netherlands.


After the diagnosis of a locally recurrent rectal cancer, imaging is the first step to estimate the extent and location of the local tumour growth and the presence or absence of distant metastases. The aim of the treatment is a R0 resection (microscopically tumour free circumferential margin) by multimodality treatment consisting of pre-operative radiation, extended resection and intra-operative radiotherapy by either electron beam irradiation or with high dose rate brachytherapy. Filling the pelvic cavity with vital tissue such as an omentoplasty should considered carefully. With this treatment the overall three-year survival rate of a group of 33 patients was 60% with a local control rate of 73%. The combination of chemotherapy as a radiosensitizer resulted in an increase of R0 resections by 20%. Introduction of TME surgery and pre-operative radiotherapy has created a new situation with limited possibilities due to dose-accumulation toxicity of the radiotherapy and extensive scarring of the tissues making estimation of the extent of the tumour growth more difficult. The prevention of local recurrence by proper selection of primary cases, the training of experienced surgeons and the optimal use of pre-operative radiotherapy is the way forward to improve results.