According to a report, giving radiation to surgical treatment for rectal cancer may not make much difference in the survival of patients. But the findings suggest that the radiation treatments given before surgery may help improve the patient's quality of life by reducing the rate of cancer recurrence at or near the original tumor site in the rectum.
In about 15% to 45% of patients who undergo conventional surgery to remove rectal tumors, they return. To prevent recurrence, surgeons have developed a technique called total mesorectal excision, in which the tissue surrounding the rectum, which may contain tumor cell, is removed along with the rectum itself.
In order to investigate researchers randomly assigned more than 1,800 patients to have either total mesorectal excision alone, or the surgery along with radiation given beforehand.
According to Dr. Ellen Kapit and colleagues from Leiden University Medical Center in New Jersy, among patients who received both radiation treatment and surgery, 2.4% saw a reappearance of their cancer. Patients in the surgery-only group had a recurrence rate of 8.2%. They concluded that radiation before surgery can improve local control of the disease.
Drs. Heidi Nelson and Daniel J. Sargent of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, wrote in an accompanying editorial that the preliminary results show that radiation therapy does provide an additional benefit: radiation therapy reduced the risk of local recurrence even when administered to patients who underwent total mesorectal excision.