Preoperative evaluation and postoperative follow-up for patients with rectal cancer.
Rectal cancer has a wide variety of presentations. In most cases, it is the surgeon who is faced with the challenge of determining the extent of disease and advising the patient how to proceed with treatment. Utilizing diagnostic tests of the highest accuracy and relevance will help in the selection of the best initial therapy, which is critical for achieving the highest cure rate while also avoiding over-treatment and unnecessary morbidity. Following curative treatment, surveillance testing for detection of recurrence is traditionally done, but the efficacy of this practice has been questioned. Surveillance will detect a number of asymptomatic recurrences that are treatable by potentially curative salvage surgery, but to what extent early detection improves salvage therapy is not well established. In this brief review, the goals, methods, and expected benefits of rectal cancer staging and surveillance are assessed.