New approaches to treating rectal cancer may remove the need for radiation therapy and its life changing side effects.

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Once you hear your doctor say the word cancer, your mind goes blank and you have opened the door to aggressive and life-changing treatments and years of future monitoring. Years ago, my father had cancer in the prostate which was treated with radiation which was supposed to be a less aggressive method back then when combined with hormone therapy.   20 years later he became incontinent from the radiation which we now know can be addressed better with monitoring. In the world of rectal cancer, there is surgery, chemo, and then radiation which have been standard treatments in the past.  According to the NY Times, the future holds approaches that may not require radiation, known to cause sexual dysfunction, menopause in women, and even incontinence. Research and data are now showing us that often, less is more for patients' quality of life after the diagnosis and treatment. Medicine is often a world of protocol care and one size fits all approaches that may cause more harm than good.   Less is more is the right approach if the outcomes are the same and in the case of rectal cancer, they are. Check out the recent article in the NY Times about how doctors are changing how we treat rectal cancer with a less-is-more approach to care.

Rectal Cancer Patients Could Be Spared the Effects of Radiation

A large “de-escalation” trial suggests that tens of thousands of people annually may be able to rely on only chemotherapy and surgery to treat their illness.

By Gina Kolata Published June 4, 2023 Rectal cancer researchers have pulled off a daunting feat, demonstrating in a large clinical trial that patients do just as well without radiation therapy as with it. The results, revealed Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and in a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, could give more than 10,000 patients every year in the United States the option to forgo a cancer treatment that can have serious side effects. The study is part of a new direction for cancer researchers, said Dr. Eric Winer, who is president of the oncology organization but was not involved in the trial. Read more