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Ann Oncol. 2008 Jun;19 Suppl 6:vi1-8. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdn358.

The diagnosis and management of rectal cancer: expert discussion and recommendations derived from the 9th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer, Barcelona, 2007.

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  • 1University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium.


Knowledge of the biology and management of rectal cancer continues to improve. A multidisciplinary approach to a patient with rectal cancer by an experienced expert team is mandatory, to assure optimal diagnosis and staging, surgery, selection of the appropriate neo-adjuvant and adjuvant strategy and chemotherapeutic management. Moreover, optimal symptom management also requires a dedicated team of health care professionals. The introduction of total mesorectal excision has been associated with a decrease in the rate of local failure after surgery. High quality surgery and the achievement of pathological measures of quality are a prerequisite to adequate locoregional control. There are now randomized data in favour of chemoradiotherapy or short course radiotherapy in the preoperative setting. Preoperative chemoradiotherapy is more beneficial and has less toxicity for patients with resectable rectal cancer than postoperative chemoradiotherapy. Furthermore chemoradiotherapy leads also to downsizing of locally advanced rectal cancer. New strategies that decrease the likelihood of distant metastases after initial treatment need be developed with high priority. Those involved in the care for patients with rectal cancer should be encouraged to participate in well-designed clinical trials, to increase the evidence-based knowledge and to make further progress. Health care workers involved in the care of rectal cancer patients should be encouraged to adopt quality control processes leading to increased expertise.

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