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Functional Outcomes and Health-Related Quality of Life After Curative Treatment for Rectal Cancer: A Population-Level Study in England

Downing, Amy; Glaser, Adam W.; Finan, Paul J.; Wright, Penny; Thomas, James D.; Gilbert, Alexandra; Corner, Jessica; Richards, Mike; Morris, Eva JA.; Sebag-Montefiore, David


Amy Downing

Adam W. Glaser

Paul J. Finan

Penny Wright

James D. Thomas

Alexandra Gilbert

Jessica Corner

Mike Richards

Eva JA. Morris

David Sebag-Montefiore


There is a growing population of cancer survivors at risk of treatment-related morbidity. This study investigated how potentially curative rectal cancer treatment influences subsequent function and health-related quality of life using data from a large-scale survey of patient-reported outcomes.

Methods and Materials
All individuals 12 to 36 months after receiving a diagnosis of colorectal cancer in England were sent a survey in January 2013. The survey responses were linked with cancer registration, hospital admissions, and radiation therapy data through the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service. Outcome measures were cancer specific (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy and Social Difficulties Inventory items related to fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence, and sexual difficulties) and generic (EuroQol EQ-5D).

Surveys were returned by 6713 (64.2%) of 10,452 patients with rectal cancer. Of these, 3998 patients were in remission after a major resection and formed the final analysis sample. Compared with those who had surgery alone, patients who received preoperative radiation therapy had higher odds of reporting poor bowel control (43.6% vs 33.0%; odds ratio [OR] = 1.55; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.26-1.91), severe urinary leakage (7.2% vs 3.5%; OR = 1.69; 95% CI, 1.18-2.43), and severe sexual difficulties (34.4% vs 18.3%; OR = 1.73; 95% CI, 1.43-2.11). Patients who received long-course chemoradiotherapy reported significantly better bowel control than those who had short-course radiation therapy, with no difference for other outcomes. Respondents with a stoma present reported significantly higher levels of severe sexual difficulties and worse health-related quality of life than those who had never had a stoma or had undergone stoma reversal.

This study demonstrated the feasibility of a large-scale assessment of patient-reported outcomes and provided “real-world” data regarding the effect of rectal cancer treatment. The results show that patients who receive preoperative radiation therapy reported poorer outcomes, particularly for bowel and sexual function, and highlighted the negative impact of a stoma. We hope that our experience will encourage researchers to perform similar studies in other healthcare systems.


Downing, A., Glaser, A. W., Finan, P. J., Wright, P., Thomas, J. D., Gilbert, A., …Sebag-Montefiore, D. (2019). Functional Outcomes and Health-Related Quality of Life After Curative Treatment for Rectal Cancer: A Population-Level Study in England. International Journal of Radiation Oncology - Biology - Physics, 103(5), 1132-1142.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 5, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 13, 2018
Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 13, 2019
Journal International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics
Print ISSN 0360-3016
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Issue 5
Pages 1132-1142
Keywords Cancer Research; Oncology; Radiation; Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
Public URL
Publisher URL

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