Organ preservation in anal and rectal cancers.
For the past 10 to 15 years, radiation therapy and chemotherapy have played an increasingly important role in the treatment of various gastrointestinal malignancies, most prominently in anal and rectal cancer. Critical issues in the care of patients with anal and rectal cancer include not only local control and survival but organ preservation as well. For patients with carcinoma of the anal canal, external-beam irradiation with 5-fluorouracil and chemotherapy with mitomycin C have replaced surgery as primary therapy. Current studies are optimizing this therapy. In contrast, the management of distal rectal cancer is in evolution. Although the abdominoperineal resection has been long regarded as the definitive treatment of distal rectal cancer, it is associated with substantial morbidity (loss of anorectal function with a permanent colostomy and a high incidence of sexual and genitourinary dysfunction). As an alternative, treatment programs utilizing sphincter-preserving procedures with radiation therapy and chemotherapy are under active investigation. In selected patients, these strategies appear promising, and there have been reports of satisfactory local control and survival, as well as preservation of sphincter integrity.
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