Complications and Survival After Surgery for Rectal Cancer in Patients Younger Than and Aged 75 Years or Older

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An increasing number of rectal cancer patients are elderly and have comorbid medical diseases. This study was designed to compare perioperative morbidity, mortality, and survival after surgery for rectal cancer in patients younger than and aged 75 years or older.


Between 1980 and 1997, 294 patients with rectal cancer were admitted to the Fourth Department of Surgery, Helsinki University Central Hospital. Of these, 95 (32 percent) were aged 75 or older and comprise the elderly group.


Major curative operation was possible in 59 of 95 patients in the elderly group and in 147 of 199 patients in the younger age group. Among those operated on with curative intent, 20 of 59 patients (34 percent) in the older age group and 39 of 147 patients (27 percent) in the younger age group had complications (P= 0.31). Thirty-day mortality was 2 percent (n = 1) and 0, respectively. Although five-year crude survival was significantly lower in the older age group (43vs. 65 percent,P= 0.01), five-year cancer-specific survival (60vs.70 percent,P= 0.6) and disease-free, five-year survival (60vs. 69 percent,P= 0.4) were similar in both groups. Patients (n = 17) treated with local excision had a cancer-specific survival of 81 and 83 percent in younger and older age groups, respectively. After palliative resection, the two-year survival was similar (20vs. 24 percent) in both age groups. Ten elderly patients (11 percent) were not operated on at all in contrast to two patients (1 percent) younger than aged 75 years (P= 0.003).


Major, curative, rectal cancer surgery in selected elderly patients can be performed with similar indications, perioperative morbidity, and mortality, as well as five-year, cancer-specific and disease-free survival as in younger patients.

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