Finding better approaches to rectal cancer surgery

Faster advances, quality of life were the aim at Main Line Health forum
WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (WPVI) -- Doctors, medical oncologists, and other cancer experts from across the globe spent several days at Lankenau Medical Center, trying to find better approaches to rectal cancer.

The hospital partnered with the Multidisciplinary International Rectal Cancer Society in hosting the 2019 Philadelphia Rectal Cancer Symposium.

Symposium director Dr. John Marks says the meeting brings together thought leaders to discuss and share their techniques and experience, to advance new options faster.

Dr. Marks and colleagues performed surgery live on a cadaver to demonstrate taTME, Transanal Total Mesorectal Excision, a new approach to some rectal cancers.

Dr. Marks says traditional surgery leaves 25-40% of rectal cancer patients with a colostomy bag.

However, at Lankenau Medical Center, the rate is about 7%.

With transanal techniques, Dr. Marks says 90% of patient maintain excellent function.

He told Action News that National Cancer Institute guidelines often lag "years behind" in new techniques doctors are proving in the operating room.

"It can be 4 or 5 years before information on them is widely disseminated," says Dr. Marks.

At the symposium, experts were sharing research at an earlier stage to speed up innovation and adoption.

The ultimate goal is a better quality of life for rectal cancer patients.

One topic on the agenda was discussion of single-port robot surgery. The robot has better "optics," or eyesight, than humans have, so it can cause less disruption to a patient's internal landscape.

Less trauma in this sensitive area translates to less risk of complications, and greater patient satisfaction.

Dr. Marks says participants went home with fresh insights and dedication to advancing rectal cancer treatments.
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