Rectal cancer: changing patterns of referral for radiation therapy 1982-1997

Graham Stevens*, Ian Firth, Michael Solomon, Robyn Saw, David Glenn, Anthony Eyers, Richard West

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the changing role of radiation therapy in rectal cancer and to determine the patterns of referral of patients during a 15-year period. Methods: From 1982 to 1997, 464 patients with carcinoma of the rectum were referred to the Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; 79% of patients had locoregional disease alone and 21% had distant metastasis. Radiation therapy consisted of irradiation (definitive or palliative) alone to the primary tumour in 9.7% of cases; preoperative radiation in 7.3% of cases; preoperative chemoradiation in 7.5% of patients; postoperative radiation in 15.3% of patients; postoperative chemoradiation in 12.3% of patients; treatment of pelvic recurrence in 23.5% of patients and treatment of metastases in 9.1% of patients. The remainder were treated elsewhere (1.9%) or not treated (13.4%). Results: There was an average annual 14% increase in referrals over the accrual period. Recurrent rectal cancer decreased from approximately 30% of referrals during 1982-91 to approximately 10% in 1995-7. The use of postoperative adjuvant radiation reached a peak of 50% in 1993. The use of preoperative radiation increased suddenly in 1994 from < 10% to a sustained rate of approximately 30% of referrals. The use of chemoradiation commenced in 1990 for postoperative adjuvant treatment and in 1994 for preoperative treatment. The median survival time from initial diagnosis was 35 months, with 2- and 5-year survival rates of 62 and 28%, respectively. Survivals at 5 years for patients treated with preoperative and postoperative radiation (with or without chemotherapy) and with recurrent disease were 56, 44 and 21%, respectively. Conclusions: The present study illustrates the changing role of radiation therapy in the management of rectal cancer. The increase in referrals over the observation period was due to increased multidisciplinary input into the initial management of these patients, based on reported clinical trials. The steady increase in the use of adjuvant therapy has paralleled a decrease in referrals for treatment of recurrence and reflects current clinical results. The sequencing of adjuvant therapy is changing currently, with greater emphasis on preoperative adjuvant treatment. Currently most adjuvant therapy includes chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-559
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjuvant
  • Patterns of care
  • Postoperative
  • Preoperative
  • Radiation therapy
  • Rectal cancer
  • Recurrence
  • Survival


Dive into the research topics of 'Rectal cancer: changing patterns of referral for radiation therapy 1982-1997'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this