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Skipping surgery is an option for some patients with rectal cancer




Adoption of nonoperative management has been slow in the United States for a variety of reasons, according to Dr. Paty. “I think the bottom line is that practicing watch and wait, nonoperative management is more difficult for the surgeon. It requires first the judgment that the cancer’s gone. You have to follow the patient longer after radiation; sometimes the complete response will take up to 3 months. And there is also the medical-legal issue of deviating from the standard of care. … So I think it was operationally a difficult thing to do, it didn’t fit with the existing paradigm very well.”

But that is changing as more data roll in. “What’s happened in the last I will say 2-3 years is that there are centers publishing their experience, ours being the largest outside Brazil and the first in North America. Another group in the Netherlands has published a group of about 25 patients,” he explained. “Talking with people at meetings around the world, centers are adopting it, and I think that many leaders in clinical trials in rectal cancer recognize that this option is not only reasonable, but perhaps it’s necessary to inform patients that it is an option.”

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