The present study presented a 35-year-old female patient in whom fecal occult blood was detected in a medical check-up. Colonoscopy revealed a superficial elevated-type tumor with central depression in the lower rectum. The tumor was diagnosed as T1 deep invasive cancer. No swollen lymph nodes or distant metastasis were found on computed tomography or [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography with computed tomography. However, a swollen right lateral pelvic lymph node (LPLN; short axis 4 mm) was revealed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This lymph node exhibited high intensity on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), suggesting metastasis. Low anterior resection, regional lymph node dissection and right LPLN dissection (LPLD) were performed. Histological analysis revealed metastasis in the right LPLN, as suggested by the high DWI intensity. The indication for LPLD in the current Japanese guidelines is based on the tumor location and depth of invasion (≥T3), however, not on the status of LPLN metastasis in pre-operative evaluation. The present case was cT1, which is not included in this indication. DWI is sensitive for the diagnosis of lymph node metastasis of colorectal cancer, although inflammation-induced swelling of lymph nodes in advanced rectal cancer may cause a false-positive result, which is uncommon in T1 cases. Therefore, an LPLN with a high intensity DWI signal in T1 cases is likely to be metastasis-positive. Pre-operative DWI-MRI may be useful for identifying LPLN metastasis when planning the treatment strategy in these cases. The present study suggested reinvestigation of the indication for LPLD with inclusion of LPLN status on pre-operative imaging.
Keywords: T1 lower rectal cancer; diffusion-weighted imaging; lateral pelvic lymph node; lateral pelvic lymph node dissection; magnetic resonance imaging.