Symptom Control in Patients With Locally Recurrent Rectal Cancer

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Although resection of locally recurrent rectal cancer has been associated with improved survival, clinical outcomes after such repeat surgery have been incompletely characterized.


From 1997 to 1999, 105 consecutive patients requiring repeat surgery for locally recurrent rectal cancer were identified. Patients were observed for a minimum of 2 years or until death.


An operation was performed with palliative intent in 23% of patients. Before repeat surgery, 79% of the palliative-intent patients had symptoms: 21% bleeding, 42% obstruction, and 21% pain. After repeat surgery with palliative intent, improvement was noted in 40% with bleeding, 70% with obstruction, and 20% with pain. Additional or recurrent symptoms were noted in 87% during follow-up. Seventy-seven percent of patients had an operation with nonpalliative intent. Before repeat surgery, 57% of nonpalliative patients had symptoms, with 32% experiencing bleeding, 11% obstruction, and 19% pain. After repeat surgery with nonpalliative intent, initial improvement was noted in 88% with bleeding, 78% with obstruction, and 40% with pain. During follow-up, symptoms arose in 37% of the initially asymptomatic patients, and additional or recurrent symptoms were seen in 63% of those previously symptomatic.


Although symptomatic relief is associated with repeat surgery, the recurrence or development of alternate symptoms makes a completely asymptomatic clinical course uncommon.

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