Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Short Course of Radiation Fights Rectal Cancer

Study Shows Five Days of Treatment Cuts Risk of Cancer’s Return

Standard Treatment in the U.S. continued...

"Waiting lets the tumor shrink" so less surrounding tissue needs to be removed, he says. Also, the longer course of radiation means a lower dose is given at each visit, he says.

"We're concerned the higher dose [used in The Netherlands] may lead to more long-term side effects such as bowel dysfunction that requires more surgery to fix the injured tissue," Willett says.

Nonetheless, "this is an important trial because it has stimulated a lot of other trials looking at different radiation schedules. It's getting us closer to the optimal way to treating locally advanced rectal cancer," he says.

New Surgical Technique

Marijnen says the introduction of a new surgical technique that is being used more and more in both the U.S. and Europe prompted the study.

In the past, "surgeons pulled out just the rectum. Then studies showed total mesorectal excision (TME), in which surgeons remove the whole rectum plus the fat around it, reduces the risk of local recurrence even further," she says.

However, the impact of giving radiation prior to TME had not been examined, Marijnen says.

"These results demonstrate that good surgery absolutely is necessary and then radiotherapy can definitely add to the prevention of local recurrence," she says.

Willett says the findings "show the need for continuing education so TME is integrated into standard practice."

Radiation therapy does carry risks, chiefly temporary fatigue and transient skin reactions similar to sunburns during treatment. Later, there is a very small risk of secondary cancer or radiation-induced heart or lung disease.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
New Colorectal Treatments
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
Cancer Facts Quiz
Virtual Colonoscopy
Picture of the Colon
Vitamin D