Benefit from preoperative radiotherapy in rectal cancer treatment: disease-free patients' and oncologists' preferences

Br J Cancer. 2007 Sep 17;97(6):717-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603954.


Preoperative radiotherapy (PRT) in resectable rectal cancer improves local control but increases probability of faecal incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Consensus was reached in 2001 in the Netherlands on a guideline advising PRT to new patients. Purpose was to assess at what benefit oncologists and rectal cancer patients prefer PRT followed by surgery to surgery alone, and how oncologists and patients value various treatment outcomes. Sixty-six disease-free patients and 60 oncologists (surgical, radiation, medical) were interviewed. Minimally desired benefit from PRT (local control) was assessed using the Treatment Tradeoff Method. Importance of survival, local control, faecal incontinence, and sexual dysfunction in determining treatment outcome preferences was assessed using Adaptive Conjoint Analysis. The range of required benefit from PRT varied widely within participant groups. Seventeen percent of patients would choose PRT at a 0% benefit; 11% would not choose PRT for the maximum benefit of 11%. Mean minimally desired benefit excluding these two groups was 4%. For oncologists, the required benefit was 5%. Also, how strongly participants valued treatment outcomes varied widely within groups. Of the four outcomes, participants considered incontinence most often as most important. Relative treatment outcome importance differed between specialties. Patients considered sexual functioning more important than oncologists. Large differences in treatment preferences exist between individual patients and oncologists. Oncologists should adequately inform their patients about the risks and benefits of PRT, and elicit patient preferences regarding treatment outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Rectal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Treatment Outcome