Definition

Cancer of the Rectum

Cancer (carcinoma) of the rectum is a common clinical finding that remains localized to the rectal wall for a considerable time. At first, it tends to spread locally in the lymphatics around the circumference of the bowel. Later, it spreads upward and laterally along the lymph vessels, following the superior rectal and middle rectal arteries. Venous spread occurs late, and because the superior rectal vein is a tributary of the portal vein, the liver is a common site for secondary deposits.

Once the malignant tumor has extended beyond the confines of the rectal wall, knowledge of the anatomic relations of the rectum will enable a physician to assess the structures and organs likely to be involved. In both sexes, a posterior penetration involves the sacral plexus and can cause severe intractable pain down the leg in the distribution of the sciatic nerve. A lateral penetration may involve the ureter. An anterior penetration in the male may involve the prostate, seminal vesicles, or bladder; in the female, the vagina and uterus may be invaded.

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