Contact X-ray Brachytherapy for Older or Inoperable Rectal Cancer Patients: Short-Term Oncological and Functional Follow-Up

P.A. Custers, B.M. Geubels, I.L. Huibregtse, F.P. Peters, E.G. Engelhardt, G.L. Beets, C.A.M. Marijnen, M.E. van Leerdam, B. van Triest*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Simple Summary The cornerstone in rectal cancer treatment is total mesorectal excision, a major surgical procedure associated with morbidity and mortality, especially in older rectal cancer patients. To avoid major surgery, different radiotherapy techniques are being investigated. Studies on contact X-ray brachytherapy reveal promising oncological results. However, there are limited data on functional outcome and quality of life, which are highly important for older or inoperable patients. This study aims to report the oncological and functional outcome, quality of life, and patients' experiences of older or inoperable rectal cancer patients treated with contact X-ray brachytherapy to avoid major surgery. This study shows that contact X-ray brachytherapy can provide a good tumor response and is well tolerated, with minimal impact on functional outcome and quality of life. These data suggest contact X-ray brachytherapy can be considered an option for older or inoperable rectal cancer patients to avoid major rectal surgery. Total mesorectal excision for rectal cancer is a major operation associated with morbidity and mortality. For older or inoperable patients, alternatives are necessary. This prospective study evaluated the oncological and functional outcome and quality of life of older or inoperable rectal cancer patients treated with a contact X-ray brachytherapy boost to avoid major surgery. During follow-up, tumor response and toxicity on endoscopy were scored. Functional outcome and quality of life were assessed with self-administered questionnaires. Additionally, in-depth interviews regarding patients' experiences were conducted. Nineteen patients were included with a median age of 80 years (range 72-91); nine patients achieved a clinical complete response and in another four local control of the tumor was established. The 12 month organ-preservation rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival were 88%, 78%, and 100%, respectively. A transient decrease in quality of life and bowel function was observed at 3 months, which was generally restored at 6 months. In-depth interviews revealed that patients' experience was positive despite the side-effects shortly after treatment. In older or inoperable rectal cancer patients, contact X-ray brachytherapy can be considered an option to avoid total mesorectal excision. Contact X-ray brachytherapy is well-tolerated and can provide good tumor control.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6333
Number of pages13
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • rectal cancer
  • contact X-ray brachytherapy
  • older patients
  • oncological outcome
  • functional outcome
  • quality of life

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