Tumor stage remains the most important determinant of prognosis in colorectal cancer and is the basis of all authoritative patient management guidelines. The pathologic assessment of stage II disease is especially critical because it may help to identify patients at additional risk for whom surgery alone may not be curative. Accurate analysis of regional lymph nodes, extent of tumor penetration, and circumferential resection margins constitute the most crucial issues. For assignment of pN0, adequacy of the surgical resection and thoroughness of the lymph node harvest from the resection specimen are both essential. The minimum number of lymph nodes has been variably determined to be between 12 and 18 for assignment of pN0, but the confidence level increases with increasing numbers of nodes examined. The ability of exhaustive analysis of sentinel lymph nodes using special techniques to substitute for an exhaustive lymph node harvest and standard node examination has not been definitively shown. Although special techniques may facilitate the identification of minute amounts of tumor (i.e., isolated tumor cells) in regional lymph nodes, the prognostic significance of such findings remains unclear. Additional stage-independent pathologic features that have been validated as adverse prognostic factors include involvement by tumor of mural lymphovascular channels, venous vessels, or the surgical resection margin of the operative specimen and high tumor grade. The presence of these features may help to identify patients for whom surgery alone will not be curative and adjuvant therapies may be appropriate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research