Purpose: Radical surgery of rectal cancer is associated with significant morbidity, and some patients with low-lying lesions must accept a permanent colostomy. Several studies have suggested satisfactory tumor control after local excision of early rectal cancer. The purpose of this study was to compare recurrence and survival rates after treating early rectal cancers with local excision and radical surgery.
Methods: One hundred eight patients with T1 and T2 rectal adenocarcinomas treated by transanal excision were compared with 153 patients with T1N0 and T2N0 rectal adenocarcinomas treated with radical surgery. Neither group received adjuvant chemoradiation. Mean follow-up time was 4.4 years after local excision and 4.8 years after radical surgery.
Results: The estimated five-year local recurrence rate was 28 percent (18 percent for T1 tumors and 47 percent for T2 tumors) after local excision and 4 percent (none for T1 tumors and 6 percent for T2 tumors) after radical surgery. Overall recurrence was also higher after local excision (21 percent for T1 tumors and 47 percent for T2 tumors) than after radical surgery (9 percent for T1 tumors and 16 percent for T2 tumors). Twenty-four of 27 patients with recurrence after local excision underwent salvage surgery. The estimated five-year overall survival rate was 69 percent after local excision (72 percent for T1 tumors and 65 percent after T2 tumors) and 82 percent after radical surgery (80 percent for T1 tumors and 81 percent for T2 tumors). Differences in survival rate between local excision and radical surgery were statistically significant in patients with T2 tumors.
Conclusions: Local excision of early rectal cancer carries a high risk of local recurrence. Salvage surgery is possible in most patients with local recurrence, but may be effective only in patients with T1 tumors. When compared with radical surgery, local excision may compromise overall survival in patients with T2 rectal cancers.