Background and purpose: Patients (N=316) with resectable cT3-4 low-lying and mid-rectal cancer were randomised to receive either preoperative 5x5Gy irradiation with subsequent surgery performed within 7 days or chemoradiation (50.4, 1.8Gy per fraction plus boluses of 5-fluorouracil and leucovorin) followed by surgery after 4-6 weeks. No differences were found in sphincter preservation, survival, local control and late complications. Early complications were less frequent in the short-course group. The aim of this report is to find out whether large doses per fraction of short-course schedule result in more severe anorectal and sexual dysfunction and quality of life (QoL) impairment.
Materials and method: Patients who were free of disease were asked to answer the QLQ-C30 and those without stoma were, additionally, asked to fill in a questionnaire of anorectal (19 items) and sexual function (1 item).
Results: Two hundred and twenty-two patients (86% response rate) completed the QLQ-C30 and 118 (86% response rate) the anorectal-sexual function questionnaire. The median time from surgery to filling in the QLQ-C30 questionnaire was 12 months, and to filling in the anorectal-sexual function questionnaire - 13 months. We did not find significant differences between the randomised groups regarding QoL and the anorectal and sexual functions. Approximately two-thirds of patients had anorectal function impairment. Approximately 20% of patients stated that this considerably influenced their QoL.
Conclusions: QoL and the anorectal and sexual functioning did not differ in patients receiving short-course radiotherapy, as compared to those receiving chemoradiation.