Nancy N. Baxter, MD, PhD | Authors

Are We Overtreating Some Patients With Rectal Cancer?

December 01, 2004

The definition of overtreatment of rectal cancer is controversial,and thus it is difficult to accurately quantitate its prevalence. All componentsof rectal cancer treatment are associated with significant potentialfor morbidity and dysfunction that may have a negative impacton the patient’s quality of life. No one would disagree with the tenetthat overtreatment should be avoided whenever possible. Despite thatconsensus, little attention is given in the literature to the issues ofovertreatment of rectal cancer. This review article presents a varietyof clinical scenarios and summarizes available data demonstratingthat overtreatment of some patients with rectal cancer is occurring ona regular basis. It is hoped that this will stimulate clinicians to criticallyreview their own practices to eliminate such overtreatment. Developmentof new clinical trials to determine whether current practiceguidelines are promoting overtreatment of selected rectal cancer patientsis proposed.