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Rectal Cancer Recurrence Statistics

How often does rectal cancer recur?


Updated: October 24, 2006

In general, rectal cancer tends to have a high recurrence rate. Also, rectal tumors that have high microvessel density (a bunch of tiny blood vessels) are more likely to recur or spread. Now that you know how it behaves in general, let's get to the specifics.

Overall Rectal Cancer Recurrence

According to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery, approximately 23% of rectal cancer patients experienced a recurrence within five years. Researchers obtained this data by analyzing the recurrence rates of approximately 680 French cancer patients who had received treatment for rectal cancer between 1976 and 1995. However, other studies have shown that rectal cancer recurrence rates can vary from 4% to 55%.

Impact of Tumor Size on Recurrence Statistics

The same study mentioned above determined that the chances rectal cancer will return within five years of treatment are 11% for an original tumor smaller than 3 centimeters (cm) and 28% for an original tumor larger than 3 cm.

Impact of Cancer Stage on Recurrence Statistics

When the French researchers examined the impact of cancer stage on rectal cancer recurrence, they confirmed that more advanced rectal cancer was more likely to recur. During a five-year period, the rectal cancer recurrence rates for each stage were as follows:
  • 10% for stage 1 rectal cancer
  • 24% for stage 2 rectal cancer
  • 41% for stage 3 rectal cancer

Impact of Hospital Choice on Recurrence Statistics

When researchers analyzed data for approximately 3,400 Norwegian rectal cancer patients, they found that which hospital the patients chose significantly impacted their rectal cancer recurrence rates. Specifically, patients who were treated at hospitals that had performed fewer than ten rectal cancer surgeries annually were more likely to have a recurrence in five years than patients who were treated at hospitals that had performed 30 or more rectal cancer surgeries a year.

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  2. Chen, Y. and Wan, D. "Correlation of Tumor Microvessel Density to Metastasis and Recurrence of Rectal Cancer." Ai Zheng 23.10 (Oct. 2004): 1203-1206. PubMed. 21 Aug. 2006 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=15473936&dopt=Abstract].
  3. Manfredi, S. and Benhamiche, A. "Population-Based Study of Factors Influencing Occurrence and Prognosis of Local Recurrence after Surgery for Rectal Cancer." British Journal of Surgery 88.9 (Nov. 2002): 1221-1227. Wiley InterScience. 21 Aug. 2006.
  4. Stocchi, L. and Nelson, H. "Impact of Surgical and Pathologic Variables in Rectal Cancer: A United States Community and Cooperative Group Report." Journal of Clinical Oncology 19.18 (Sep. 2001): 3895-3902. 21 Aug. 2006 [http://www.jco.org/cgi/content/full/19/18/3895?ijkey=f398f77391cb5ab8d04f72394795bc00de6e604e].
  5. Wibe, A. and Eriksen, M. "Effect of Hospital Caseload on Long-Term Outcome after Standardization of Rectal Cancer Surgery at a National Level." British Journal of Surgery 92.2 (Dec. 2004): 217-224. Wiley InterScience. 21 Aug. 2006.
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