Abstract Aims Evidence suggests that pre- and/or postoperative treatment benefits patients with stage II/III rectal cancer. This study aimed to quantify treatment patterns and adherence to treatment guidelines, and to identify barriers to having a consultation with an oncologist and barriers to receiving treatment in stage II/III rectal cancer, in a publicly funded medical care system. Materials and methods Patients with surgically treated stage II/III rectal adenocarcinoma, diagnosed from 2002 to 2005 in Alberta, a Canadian province with a population of 3 million, were included. Demographic and treatment information from the Alberta Cancer Registry were linked to data from electronic medical records, hospital discharge data and the 2001 Canadian Census. The study outcomes were ‘not having an oncologist consultation’ and ‘not receiving guideline-based treatment’. The relative risks of the two outcomes in association with patient characteristics were estimated using multivariable log-binomial regression. Results Of a total of 910 surgically treated stage II/III rectal adenocarcinoma patients, 748 (82%) had a consultation with an oncologist and 414 (45.5%) received treatment. Pre-/post-surgical treatment modalities and timing varied; 96 (10.5%) received neoadjuvant treatment only, 389 (42.7%) received adjuvant treatment only, 119 (13.1%) received both, and 306 (33.6%) had surgery alone. Factors related to not having a consultation with an oncologist included older age, co-morbidities, cancer stage II and region of residence. Older age was the most significantly associated factor with not receiving treatment (relative risk = 2.23; 95% confidence interval: 1.89, 2.64). Conclusions Disparities exist in the receipt of treatment in stage II/III rectal cancer. Factors such as age, region of residence and stage should not be barriers to consulting an oncologist to discuss or receive treatment. The reasons for these disparities need to be identified and addressed.