Imaging as a surveillance tool in rectal cancer

Massimo Bellomi, Laura Lavinia Travaini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, half of patients with treated rectal cancer will die owing to recurrent disease. There is no evidence of benefit on survival from an intensive surveillance program, even if presymptomatic recurrent disease is detected. The aim of this article is to review the results described for the different imaging techniques in diagnosing rectal cancer recurrence in different sites and to discuss their relative clinical impact. The sensitivity of imaging techniques is related to the performance of the machines and the site being examined. Computed tomography is the most used technique owing to its availability, speed, panoramic images and ease of use, while MRI of the pelvis and the liver produces the highest resolution, sensitivity and specificity in these anatomical areas. Owing to its high cost, [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose-PET should be used as a third-level examination, a 'problem-solving method when the site of recurrence is unknown or to rule out other possible sites of recurrence before a second surgery, and, finally, because it offers the possibility to investigate the whole body. The follow-up must be designed for individual patients, taking into account a number of factors. In the near future, whole-body imaging, probably by MRI, that is free from radiation will become the method of choice for screening for recurrent disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-112
Number of pages14
JournalExpert Review of Medical Devices
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • Computed tomography
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose
  • Follow-up
  • Metastases
  • MRI
  • PET
  • PET/CT
  • Rectal cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Biomedical Engineering


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