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The struggle of the low anterior resection syndrome after treatment for rectal cancer: experiences and needs of patients

  • Pape, Eva
  • Van Nieuwenhove, Yves
  • Decoene, Elsie
  • Debrauwere, Mieke
  • Verhaeghe, Sofie
  • Pattyn, Piet
  • Feryn, Tom
  • Pattyn, Paul
  • Van Eetvelde, Ellen
  • Vierendeels, Tijl
  • Van Hecke, Ann
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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After an intensive treatment for rectal cancer, patients believed their life will return to normal again afterwards. However a great number of patients experience bowel problems called low anterior resection syndrome (LARS) which has a large negative impact on their quality of life. Symptoms of LARS consider a large variety of bowel problems: frequency, incontinence, urgency and clustering. These symptoms can improve however some patients experience lifelong difficulties.. There is no clear view of the experiences and needs of the patients with LARS and their informal caregiver. A qualitative approach based on the grounded theory is used. Individual semi structured interviews were conducted. Participants were asked to narrate their experiences after treatment for rectal cancer. Patients were recruited by the nurse consultant through purposive sampling and later through theoretical sampling. Research triangulation is used during analysis. The overwhelming symptoms of LARS have a major impact on the life of several rectal cancer survivors. Three main concepts emerge. First, ‘Being alone’ implies that the patient’s experiences loneliness because of the symptoms, trial and error and taboo and shame about bowel problems in society. The caregiver cannot always provide useful advice. Second ‘hope’ to fit bowel problems into their daily lives. For many patients this is a continuous search. Third, ‘loss of control’ because of the unpredictability and the large variety of symptoms. Often rectal cancer survivors are still struggling because of the low anterior resection syndrome. It is crucial that care providers have a good view of the problems that patients and their environment can experience. The caregiver has an important role in counseling LARS.

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