Preoperative staging represents a crucial point for the management, type of surgery, and candidacy for neoadjuvant therapy in patient with rectal cancer. The most recent clinical guidelines in oncology recommend an accurate preoperative evaluation in order to address early and advanced tumors to different therapeutic options. In particular, potential pitfalls may occur in the assessment of T3 tumors, which represents the most common stage at diagnosis. The depth of tumor invasion is known to be an important prognostic factor in rectal carcinoma; as a consequence, the T3 imaging classification has a substantial importance for treatment strategy and patient survival. However, the differentiation between tumor invasion of perirectal fat and mesorectal desmoplastic reactions remains a main goal for radiologists. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is actually considered as the best imaging modality for rectal cancer staging. Although the endorectal ultrasound (ERUS) is the preferred staging method for early tumors, it could also be useful in identifying perirectal fat invasion. Moreover, the addiction of diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) improves the diagnostic performance of MRI in rectal cancer staging by adding functional information about rectal tumor and adjacent mesorectal tissues. This study investigated the diagnostic performance of conventional MRI alone, in combination with the DWI technique and ERUS in order to assess the best diagnostic imaging combination for rectal cancer staging.
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