What is the malignant pathway of rectal cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease?

Updated: Apr 06, 2021
  • Author: Burt Cagir, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Answer

The malignant pathway in these patients does not involve any adenoma-carcinoma sequence. Cancer risk increases with duration of disease. After 10 years, the incidence of colorectal cancer in ulcerative colitis (UC) is approximately 1% per year. Patients should be evaluated for dysplastic changes via an annual colonoscopy. Dysplasia is a precursor of cancer and when present, the risk of cancer is 30%.

The incidence of colorectal cancer in patients with Crohn disease is 4-20 times greater than that of the general population. Cancer occurs in patients with disease of at least 10 years' duration. The average age at cancer diagnosis, 46-55 years, is younger than that of the general population. Cancers often develop in areas of strictures and in de-functionalized segments of intestine. In patients with perianal Crohn disease, malignancy is often present in fistulous tracts. Patients with Crohn colitis should undergo the same surveillance regimen as those with UC.


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