Chemoradiation for rectal cancer

Chemoradiation is a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is sometimes called chemoradiotherapy.

Chemoradiation is when chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given at the same time. It is sometimes called chemoradiotherapy.

Chemoradiation may be given for rectal cancer:

  • before surgery, to help shrink the cancer and reduce the risk of cancer coming back in or around the rectum
  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of cancer coming back in or around the rectum.

Chemotherapy drugs make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. This can help the radiotherapy to work better. Having both treatments often works better than having either treatment on its own.

The chemotherapy drug most commonly used to treat rectal cancer is capecitabine. You take capecitabine as tablets. You start the tablets on the first morning of your radiotherapy. You take them every day throughout the course of your radiotherapy. Your nurse will tell you when and how you should take these.

Having both treatments together can make the side effects worse. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can give you more information about chemoradiation and its possible side effects.