The majority of patients with adenocarcinoma of the rectum are treated with radical surgical procedures. Lesions located in the distal third of the rectum are usually treated by abdominoperineal resection, and those situated in the proximal portion of the rectum are treated by low-anterior resection. Relatively small, moderately or well differentiated lesions have a low risk of lymph node metastasis, and are therefore amenable to conservative (ie, rectum-sparing) procedures. Conservative management options consist of transrectal excision, transrectal excision and preoperative or postoperative radiotherapy, endocavitary contact radiotherapy, and interstitial therapy. Discussion of these options, the experience at the University of Florida with two of these options, and review of the literature follow. © 1993 Southern Medical Association.