Rectal cancer: review with emphasis on MR imaging

R.G.H. Beets-Tan*, G.L. Beets

*Corresponding author for this work

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Rectal cancer: review with emphasis on MR imaging.

Beets-Tan RG, Beets GL.

Department of Radiology, University Hospital Maastricht, PO Box 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands.

One concern after rectal cancer surgery is the high local recurrence rate. Randomized trials have shown that the best local control rate for rectal cancer patients as a group is achieved after a short course of radiation therapy followed by optimal surgery. It is debatable, however, whether all patients with rectal cancer should undergo preoperative radiation therapy. Preoperative identification of those most likely to benefit from neoadjuvant therapy is important. Therefore, the challenge for preoperative imaging in rectal cancer is to determine subgroups of patients with different risks for recurrence: those with superficial tumors, who can be treated with surgery alone; those with operable tumors and a wide circumferential resection margin, who can be treated with a short course of radiation therapy followed by total mesorectal excision; and those with advanced cancer and a close or involved resection margin, who require a long course of radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy, and extensive surgery. So far, there is no consensus on the role of diagnostic imaging (endorectal ultrasonography, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance [MR] imaging) in the care of patients with primary rectal cancer. Preoperative staging has long relied on digital examination alone, which indicates that it has been difficult to achieve accuracy levels high enough for clinical decision making with preoperative imaging. In this review, the relevance of preoperative imaging in staging the local extent of primary rectal cancer will be discussed. Research on various imaging modalities, with an emphasis on MR, will be discussed under four main headings that address the most relevant aspects of local spread of rectal tumors: T stage, circumferential resection margin, locally advanced rectal cancer, and N stage. Copyright RSNA, 2004
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-346
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

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