Patients' health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is now considered a relevant clinical outcome. This study systematically reviewed articles published in the last 5 years, focusing on the impact of rectal cancer treatment on patients' HRQoL. Of the 477 articles retrieved, 56 met the inclusion criteria. The most frequently reported comparisons were between surgical procedures (21 articles), especially between sphincter-preserving and non-sphincter preserving surgery or between stoma and stoma-free patients (13 articles), and between multimodality therapies (11 articles). Additionally, twelve articles compared patients' and healthy controls' HRQoL as primary or secondary aim. The majority of the studies were observational (84 %), controlled (66 %), cross-sectional (54 %), prospective (100 %), with a sample of more than 100 patients (59 %), and with more than 60 % of patients treated with neoadjuvant therapy (50 %). The most frequently used instruments were the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30 (QLQ-C30), its colorectal cancer specific module QLQ-CR38, and the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 items questionnaire. Findings from the included articles are summarised and commented, with a special focus on the comparison between surgical treatments, between irradiated and not-irradiated patients, and between patients and the general population.