Results from the TREC trial show that a combination of local keyhole surgery and radiotherapy, rather than major surgery that removes the whole rectum, prevents debilitating side effects, such as diarrhoea, or the need for a permanent colostomy bag.
Patients reported a better quality of life with the new treatment, with less impact on their family and social life, and felt more positive about their body image and the way their bowels work.
Every year, 11,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with a tumour located in the rectum, the last part of the intestine which connects to the anus. Standard treatment is a major operation to remove the whole rectum, even if the cancer is early stage. About 25% of these major surgeries are done on small, early-stage tumours, and while it is effective, the operation can lead to long-term side-effects that seriously impacts quality of life for survivors.