Role of the status of the mesorectal fascia in the selection of patients with rectal cancer for preoperative radiation therapy: a retrospective cohort study
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BACKGROUND: Patients with rectal cancer in whom the mesorectal fascia is threatened by tumour are more likely than all patients with stage II/III disease to benefit from preoperative radiotherapy (RT). The objective of this study was to assess whether the status of the mesorectal fascia versus a stage II/III designation can best inform the use of preoperative RT in patients undergoing major rectal cancer resection. METHODS: We reviewed the charts of consecutive patients with primary rectal cancer treated by a single surgeon at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, between March 2006 and December 2012. The status of the mesorectal fascia was assessed by digital rectal examination, pelvic computed tomography and, when needed, pelvic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Patients whose mesorectal fascia was threatened or involved by tumour received preoperative RT. The study outcomes were rates of positive circumferential radial margin (CRM) and local tumour recurrence. RESULTS: A total of 153 patients were included, of whom 76 (49.7%) received preoperative RT because of concerns of a compromised mesorectal fascia. The median length of follow-up was 4.5 years. The number of CRM-positive cases in the RT and no-RT groups was 16 (22%) and 1 (1%), respectively (p < 0.01), and the number of cases of local tumour recurrence was 5 (7%) and 2 (3%), respectively (p = 0.2). Rates were similar when only patients with stage II/III tumours were included. Overall, 26 patients (17.0%) received MRI. CONCLUSION: The status of the mesorectal fascia, not tumour stage, may best identify patients for preoperative RT.
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