Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Thousands of rectal cancer patients might be spared the brutal effects of radiation, study says

Tens of thousands of patients annually might be able to rely not on radiation but only surgery and chemotherapy to treat their rectal cancer. 

According to a recent story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times that cites a large clinical trial initially reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 10,000 people each year may therefore avoid potentially serious side effects.

Dr. Eric Winer
Dr. Eric Winer, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the organization to which the results of the test were revealed, was quoted as indicating that the study is part of a new direction for cancer researchers.

"Now that cancer treatments have  improved," Kolata reports him saying, "researchers are starting to ask different questions. Instead of asking how cancer therapy can be intensified, they are asking if there are elements of successful treatments that can be eliminated to provide patients with a better quality of life." 

Winer, who wasn't directly involved in the study, was asked to comment because of his expertise.

Rectal cancer annual affects 47,500 U.S. residents.

The study determined that radiation treatment didn't improve outcomes, despite the fact that, the Times piece indicates, for decades "it was typical to use pelvic radiation, [which] puts women into immediate menopause and damages sexual function in men and women. It also can  injure the bowel, causing issues like chronic diarrhea. Patients risk pelvic fractures, and the radiation can cause additional cancers." 

More information about less being better can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.