The Rationale for and Reality of the New National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer

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BACKGROUND:The treatment of rectal cancer has greatly evolved because of numerous diagnostic and therapeutic advances. More accurate staging by MRI has allowed more appropriate use of neoadjuvant therapy as well as more standardized high-quality total mesorectal excision. Lower rates of perioperative morbidity, permanent colostomy creation, and improved rates of oncologically acceptable rectal excision have led to lower recurrence and greater disease-free survival rates. The recognition of the need for pathologic assessment of the quality of total mesorectal excision, the status of the circumferential resection margins, and the finding of a minimum of 12 lymph nodes as well as identification of extramural vascular invasion has improved staging. These evolutions in imaging, surgical management, and pathologic specimen assessment are interdependent and have been repeatedly shown on national levels to be best operationalized in a multidisciplinary team environment.OBJECTIVE:The aim of this article is to evaluate the evidence leading to these important changes, including the imminent launch of the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer.DESIGN AND SETTING:Based on the myriad confirmatory experiences in Europe and in the United Kingdom, a multidisciplinary team rectal cancer program was designed by the Consortium for Optimizing Surgical Treatment of Rectal Cancer and subsequently endorsed and accepted by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:The primary outcome measured is the adherence to the new program standards.RESULTS:Surgical treatment of rectal cancer consortium membership rapidly increased from 14 centers in August 2011 to more than 350 centers in April 2017.LIMITATIONS:The multidisciplinary team rectal cancer program has not yet launched; thus, its impact cannot yet be assessed.CONCLUSIONS:It is our hope and expectation that the outstanding improvement in quality outcomes repeatedly demonstrated within Europe, and extensively shown as much needed in the United States, will be rapidly achieved.

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