Patients’ Vulnerability in Follow-up After Colorectal Cancer: A Qualitative Action Research Study

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Abstract

Background:

In the transition between being a hospitalized patient with cancer and resuming “normal” life, many patients experience physical, mental, and social challenges. Scientifically, as well as politically, it is therefore recommended to undertake research with a focus on rethinking and reorganizing follow-up after cancer treatment.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to identify the perspectives of fast-track colorectal cancer surgery patients on challenges experienced in the transition from being a hospitalized patient with cancer to being a cancer survivor.

Methods:

The current article represents phase 1 in an ongoing action research project. Data were analyzed by using the “interpretive description” method.

Results:

Twelve patients (6 male and 6 female patients; mean age, 72.4 years) participated in the study. The analyses show that the patients physically experienced readiness to leave hospital after a few days; however, shortly after returning home, most of them became mentally overwhelmed by the feeling of vulnerability that was closely related to the feeling of being handed over the responsibility for a newly cancer-operated body and a fragile life situation. Four issues that challenged the patients emerged from the analysis: restore an everyday life, participate in a follow-up program, get relevant information, and manage contact with relevant health professionals.

Conclusions:

The study indicates that the transition to restoring a normal life after cancer surgery had been an experience characterized by more vulnerability than expected by the patients in the study.

Implications for Practice:

The findings provide 4 well-defined themes, each of which constitutes a point of departure related to focused patient-centered interventions related to follow-up after cancer surgery.

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