Supported self-management as a model for end-of-life care in the setting of malignant bowel obstruction: A qualitative study

Gynecol Oncol. 2020 Jun;157(3):745-753. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2020.03.009. Epub 2020 Mar 23.


Objective: Women with advanced gynecologic cancer and malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) undergo repeated hospitalizations, experience feelings of isolation and abandonment, and often die in acute settings. Innovative outpatient models of care are needed to address the unmet needs of this population at the end-of-life. We implemented a novel supported self-management (SMS) program focused on increasing patients' skill and confidence in managing MBO proactively in the ambulatory setting.

Methods: We performed a qualitative descriptive study embedded in a prospective single-arm evaluative trial ( ID: NCT03260647) to understand the impact of this program on patients' sense of support, degree of distress, quality of care, and capacity to self-manage. Semi-structured interviews were completed and analysed using the Chronic Care Model as a theoretical framework. Data saturation was confirmed after 15 interviews.

Results: Fifteen patients (age range: 47-82) with diagnoses of advanced ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancer were interviewed; 10 had died by end of follow-up, with a median interval from interview to death of 5 months. Patients were able to self-manage the: (i) medical aspects; (ii) psychological consequences, and (iii) changes in life roles and expectations resulting from their condition. Patients felt greatly supported, less isolated, and secure in their knowledge and ability to access care due to SMS. While patients understood their disease was not curative they did not fully appreciate that MBO signalled a significantly poorer prognosis.

Conclusion: Outpatient SMS interventions can be successfully implemented even for rapidly fatal conditions at the end-of-life and offer significant benefit to gynecologic cancer patients with MBO. Counselling should focus on the specific trajectory of MBO, and early palliative care referrals should be standard practice.

Keywords: End-of-life; Gynecologic cancer; Malignant bowel obstruction; Palliative care; Self-management support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / mortality
  • Intestinal Obstruction / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Management / methods*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Terminal Care / methods*

Associated data


Grant support