Management of advanced or recurrent pelvic cancer has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. Patients who were previously considered inoperable are now candidates for potentially curative surgery and avoid suffering with intractable symptoms. Up to 10% of primary rectal cancers present with isolated advanced local disease and between 10% and 15% of patients develop localized recurrence following proctectomy. Advances in surgical technique, reconstruction and multidisciplinary involvement have led to a reduction in mortality and morbidity and culminated in higher R0 resection rates with superior longer-term survival outcomes. Recent studies boast over 50% 5-year survival for rectal with an R0 resection. Exenteration has cemented itself as an important treatment option for advanced primary/recurrent pelvic tumours, however, there are still a few controversies. This review will discuss some of these issues, including: limitations of resection and the approach to high/wide tumours; the role of acute exenteration; re-exenteration; exenteration in the setting of metastatic disease and palliation; the role of radiotherapy (including intra-operative and re-irradiation); management of the empty pelvis; and the impact on quality of life and function.
© 2022 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.