Treatment of Rectal Cancer in Older Adults
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Purpose of Review
Rectal cancer is predominantly a disease of older adults but current guidelines do not incorporate the associated specific challenges leading to wide variation in the delivery of cancer care to this subset of population. Here, we will review the current data available regarding the management of rectal cancer in older adults.
The greatest challenge arises in the management of stage II/III disease as it involves tri-modality treatment that can be harder to tolerate by frail older patients. Response to neoadjuvant treatment is being used as a new marker to tailor further therapy and possibly avoid surgery. Oxaliplatin can be omitted from the adjuvant treatment without compromising outcomes.
Physicians should perform geriatric assessment utilizing many validated tools available to help predict treatment tolerability and outcomes in older adults that can help personalize subsequent management. Most older adults can undergo standard therapy for stages I, II, or III rectal cancer with curative intent. Increasing evidence suggests that patients with a clinical complete response to neoadjuvant treatment may be observed closely with the possibility of avoiding surgery. Studies are evaluating alternate systemic treatments for advanced metastatic disease with the hope of maintaining quality of life without compromising cancer outcomes.
KeywordsRectal cancer Older adults Neoadjuvant chemoradiation Watch and wait Pre-treatment risk assessment Rectal cancer surgery
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Ayesha R. Sheikh, Hassan Yameen, and Kevan Hartshorn declare they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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