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Mucinous Rectal Adenocarcinoma-Challenges in Magnetic Resonance Imaging Interpretation.

Mucinous rectal cancer (MRC) is defined by the World Health Organization as an adenocarcinoma with greater than 50% mucin content. Classic teaching suggests that it carries a poorer prognosis than conventional rectal adenocarcinoma. This poorer prognosis is thought to be related to mucin dissecting through tissue planes at a higher rate, thus increasing the stage of disease at presentation. Developments in immunotherapy have bridged much of this prognostic gap in recent years. Magnetic resonance imaging is the leading modality in assessing the locoregional spread of rectal cancer. Mucinous rectal cancer carries unique imaging challenges when using this modality. Much of the difficulty lies in the inherent increased T2-weighted signal of mucin on magnetic resonance imaging. This creates difficulty in differentiating mucin from the adjacent background fat, making the detection of both the primary disease process as well as the locoregional spread challenging. Computed tomography scan can act as a valuable companion modality as mucin tends to be more apparent in the background fat. After therapy, diagnostic challenges remain. Mucin is frequently present, and distinguishing cellular from acellular mucin can be difficult. In this article, we will discuss each of these challenges and present examples of such situations and strategies that can be used to overcome them.

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