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World leaders in rectal cancer meet at the Champalimaud Foundation

Some of the world's foremost experts on rectal cancer met at the Foundation on February 14th and 15th for the latest in the CF's series of cancer symposia: "Rectal Cancer - When NOT To Operate."

  1. 24.2.2014

    Surgery for rectal tumours can have a major impact on the quality of life of patients. Surgical removal of lower rectal tumours can require amputation of the anus and the need for a colostomy bag in the abdominal wall. In many cases when colostomy is not required, the operation on the tumour can lead to incontinence of faeces, difficulties in urine control and disruption of sexual function.

    In recent years, in order to improve rectal tumour surgery results, the patients are frequently subjected to radiotherapy and chemotherapy prior to surgery. With the evolution of these treatments an almost complete disappearance of the rectal tumour is observed in more than 25% of patients. In these cases it is possible to consider a new treatment option involving tight vigilance or “Watch and Wait”, with the objective of avoiding mutilation and surgical complications. When it is observed that the rectal tumour has in fact disappeared, the probability of survival in these patients is similar to that of operated patients.

    To discuss non-surgical treatment possibilities for rectal cancer, the Champalimaud Foundation welcomed medical experts from around the world to an international scientific meeting - "Rectal Cancer - When NOT to Operate.”

    One of the main recommendations of this consensus meeting was to highlight the importance of carefully evaluating, following radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the response of the tumour to the treatment – before setting the need for surgery or the most appropriate surgical procedure. During the meeting it was decided that a group comprising several major international cancer centres should be formed with the objective of gathering information on the patients who are able to avoid rectal tumour surgery following treatment with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This first international “Watch and Wait” registry for rectal tumours will be centralized in the Champalimaud Foundation. The assembled experts also recommended that, in addressing the various treatment options for rectal cancer, the priorities of the patients and their families should always play an important part in treatment decisions.

    The event was completely sold out, with medical experts from Portugal, Spain, the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Holland, Romania, Poland, Canada, the USA, Brazil and Argentina bringing expertise in the areas of surgery, medical oncology, gastroenterology, radiotherapy and radiology.

    Following the success of this event, the Foundation will hold another international meeting, to take place on October 24th and 25th 2014, dedicated to the theme of, “Pelvic Happiness”. This will once again be a multi-disciplinary and multi-speciality discussion, with participation from, among others, digestive surgeons, general surgeons, urologists, gynaecologists and medical oncologists. The event’s objectives will be consistent with the recent rectal cancer symposium: preservation of organs and the best quality of treatment and life for cancer patients.

    Champalimaud Foundation President, Leonor Beleza, used the platform of the Rectal Cancer Symposium to announce the opening of the Champalimaud Foundation’s new surgical inpatient facility, to be launched in 2015. This facility will offer the highest possible quality of patient care through state-of-the-art surgical and patient recovery areas. The creation of this facility will allow the Champalimaud Foundation to offer a fully inclusive surgical service and allow the maximisation of resources aimed at ensuring optimal patient care.

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