Complex abdominal wall hernias as a barrier to quality of life in cancer survivors
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Background: Many cancer survivors live with postoperative complex abdominal wall hernias (CAWHs). However, the impact of CAWHs on their quality of life is unknown, and few descriptions of patient experiences exist. We performed a qualitative study to explore cancer survivors’ experience with CAWHs before and after repair. Methods: Patients waiting to undergo CAWH repair or who had completed the surgery in the previous 18 months were identified from a single surgeon’s practice in CAWH at a tertiary care centre. Clinical and demographic data were extracted from
the electronic patient record. An in-depth semistructured interview guide was developed by experts in CAWH and qualitative methodology. Interviews were conducted in March 2013. We used comparative analysis techniques and coding strategies to identify themes. Results: Ten preoperative and 12 postoperative participants were interviewed. The average age of the participants was 64 years in both groups, with an even sex distribution. The most frequently diagnosed cancer in both groups was colorectal cancer. Participants’ views were organized into 5 themes: 1) unable to return to normal life, 2) sense of abandonment, 3) experiencing fear and distress, 4) preoperative: desperate for help and 5) postoperative: “getting my life back.” Conclusion: Our findings show the all-encompassing impact of a CAWH on the life of cancer survivors. They strongly suggest that hernia management should be viewed as an integral part in the continuum of cancer treatment to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors with hernias.
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