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Ann Surg. 1979 Apr;189(4):496-502.

The clinical correlation of an autopsy study of recurrent colorectal cancer.


The complete autopsies of 145 patients dying of colorectal cancer are reviewed. Isolated local or distant metastases are infrequent, compared to disseminated disease. Solitary local recurrences are most common after resection of rectal tumors. Right colon tumors spread to local and distant sites in 90% of autopsies, and to distant sites alone in 10%. Rectal tumors spread locally only in 25% of cases, to distant site alone in 25%, and to both in 50%. Regardless of the origin of the primary tumor, the liver is the most common site of metastasis, followed by the regional lymph nodes and the lungs. Two-thirds of the patients with right colon lesions died of liver metastases, and three-quarters of those with rectal tumors succumbed to disseminated disease. The current curative and palliative treatment of recurrent colorectal cancer in clinical medicine by surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy is reviewed. It is suggested that an understanding of the anatomic patterns of cancer recurrence will increase in importance as advances in the modalities of treatment are made,

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