Body image concerns after colorectal cancer surgery

Br J Nurs. 2015;24(10):S8, S10-2, S14. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2015.24.Sup10.S8.


Body image is understood to be a person's perception of his or her own physical appearance although, as this article highlights, it embraces a greater range of bodily attributes than is often appreciated. It can be significantly affected by a diagnosis of colorectal cancer and subsequent treatment, which may modify the way the body looks, feels and functions. One of the major aesthetic and functional consequences of colorectal cancer surgery is the possibility of stoma formation, which is of particular concern to many. However, the range of other bodily effects following surgery should not be overlooked, not least because of they may result in distress. While concerns about changes in body image generally decrease over time, people recovering from cancer treatment often feel their relationship with their body has been permanently altered. Specialist support is often required when adjusting to any changes in bodily appearance and function. Care outcomes can be improved by having a sound understanding of the body image concerns likely to arise following treatment, as well as the skills to identify and support patients at risk of altered body image. This article provides guidance to nurses caring for individuals who may be experiencing distress over how their body is now perceived by themselves and others following colorectal cancer surgery.

Keywords: Body image; Colorectal cancer surgery; Stoma.

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Surgical Stomas