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Effect of Neoadjuvant Therapy and Rectal Surgery on Health-related Quality of Life in Patients With Rectal Cancer During the First 2 Years After Diagnosis

21 maart 2018

The present study describes the trends in quality of life (QOL) of 272 rectal cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant therapy and surgery £ 2 years after diagnosis. During and shortly after treatment, QOL declined substantially and recovered toward pretreatment levels thereafter. However, the functioning scores remained lower compared with the Dutch general population, with postoperative treatment-related symptoms frequently reported.

Introduction: Rectal cancer surgery with neoadjuvant therapy is associated with substantial morbidity. The present study describes the course of quality of life (QOL) in rectal cancer patients in the first 2 years after the start of treatment. Patients and Methods: We performed a prospective study within a colorectal cancer cohort including rectal cancer patients who were referred for neoadjuvant chemoradiation or short-course radiotherapy and underwent rectal surgery. QOL was assessed using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer core questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and colorectal cancer questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-CR29) before treatment and after 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. The outcomes were compared with the QOL scores from the Dutch general population and stratified by low anterior resection and abdominoperineal resection. Postoperative bowel dysfunction after low anterior resection was measured using the low anterior resection syndrome score.

Results: Of the 324 patients, 272 (84%) responded to at least 2 questionnaires and were included in the present study. Compared with pretreatment levels, the strongest decline was observed in physical, role, and social functioning at 3 and 6 months after the start of treatment. Global health and cognitive functioning declined to a lesser extend, and emotional functioning gradually improved over the time. Within 24 months, the QOL scores had recovered toward the pretreatment levels in most patients. Compared with the general population, physical, role, social, and cognitive functioning and symptoms of fatigue and insomnia remained significantly worse in patients on longer-term. After low anterior resection, major bowel dysfunction was reported by 44% to 60% of the patients. Increasing urinary incontinence and severe complaints of impotence were observed in patients who had undergone abdominoperineal resection.

Conclusion: Rectal cancer treatment is associated with a significant decline in QOL during the first 6 months after the diagnosis. Within 2 years, most patients return toward pretreatment functioning but could still experience poorer functioning and treatment-related symptoms compared with the general population. These findings support shared decision-making and emphasize the need for postoperative supportive care and novel treatment approaches.

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