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Researchers in the United States have recently published results indicating that certain prognostic factors may predict outcome for patients undergoing radiation for locally recurrent rectal cancer. These results were recently published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics.

The rectum is part of the digestive system. It makes up the final six inches of the large intestine. Rectal cancer occurs when malignant cells arise from the cells of the rectum. Cancer of the colon or rectum is often called colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and women in the United States. Fortunately, when it is detected early, it is often curable.

Current treatments for rectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Factors that influence choice of treatment include the risk of cancer recurrence, the extent to which the cancer may have spread (stage of cancer), as well as the general health of the patient. Earlier stages may require less aggressive treatment than advanced stages of colorectal cancer.

In the current study, researchers focused on 10 factors that may predict outcome in 94 patients receiving radiation for recurrent rectal cancer. These factors included age (younger than 68 years versus older than 69 years), gender, general health, cancer stage, characteristics of surgery, administration of chemotherapy, radiation dose, and hemoglobin levels both before and during radiation.

Results of the study indicate that improved survival was associated with the following factors:

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  • Better health
  • Lower stage of cancer
  • Receiving surgery prior to radiation
  • Receiving chemotherapy
  • A hemoglobin level of 12 or greater before and during radiation

Researchers were encouraged to identify these predictors that may help with treatment planning. Patients diagnosed with rectal cancer are encouraged to speak with their physician about treatment options.

Reference: Rades, D., Schultze, H., Homann, N., et al. Prognostic factors affecting locally recurrent rectal cancer and clinical significance of hemoglobin. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics. 2008;70:1087-1093.

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