In recent years there have been significant improvements in rectal cancer treatment. New surgical techniques as well as effective neoadjuvant treatment regimens have contributed to these improvements. Key is to spread these advances towards every rectal cancer patient and to ensure that not only patients who are treated within the framework of clinical trials may benefit from these advancements. Throughout Europe there have been interesting quality programmes that have proved to facilitate the spread of up to date knowledge and skills among medical professionals resulting in improved treatment outcome. Despite these laudable efforts there is still a wide variation in treatment outcome between countries, regions and institutions, which calls for a European audit on cancer treatment outcome.