Background: The prognosis of patients even with the same stage of rectal cancer varies widely. We analyzed the capability of perioperative change of serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level for predicting recurrence and survival in rectal cancer patients. Methods: We reviewed 631 patients who underwent potentially curative resection for stage II or III rectal cancer. Patients were categorized into three groups according to their serum CEA concentrations on the seventh day before and on the seventh day after surgery: group A, normal CEA level (≤5 ng/mL) in both periods; group B, increased preoperative and normal postoperative CEA; and group C, continuously increased CEA in both periods. The prognostic relevance of the CEA group was investigated by analyses of recurrence patterns and survival. Results: Stage III patients showed higher systemic recurrence (P = .001) and worse 5-year survival rates (P < .0001) for group C than for groups A and B. On multivariate analysis, the CEA group was a significant predictor for recurrence (P < .001; relative risk, 2.740; 95% confidence interval, 1.677-4.476) and survival (P = .001; relative risk, 2.174; 95% confidence interval, 1.556-3.308). Conclusions: The perioperative serum CEA change was a useful prognostic indicator to predict for systemic recurrence and survival in stage III rectal cancer patients.
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