Dealing With the Unthinkable: Bladder and Colorectal Cancer Patients' and Informal Caregivers' Unmet Needs and Challenges in Life After Ostomies

Semin Oncol Nurs. 2021 Feb;37(1):151111. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2020.151111. Epub 2021 Jan 7.


Objectives: We examined patient and informal caregiver unmet needs to identify areas for targeted supportive care interventions and programs to enhance both patient and informal caregiver experience.

Data sources: A total of 30 patients who underwent ostomy surgeries for bladder or colorectal cancers and 13 informal caregivers participated in the study. Patients were enrolled at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai between 2017 and 2018. Qualitative data were collected by individual interviews, audiotaped, and transcribed verbatim. Transcribed data were iteratively analyzed using Atlas.ti to explore patient and caregiver unmet needs.

Results: Patients and informal caregivers reported having insufficient psychological preparation for ostomy surgeries, and very limited hands-on training on stoma care and utility of stomal appliances. Unmet psychological needs related to depression, anxiety, and distress caused by changes in body image and sexual, urinary, and bowel function were reported. Patients and caregivers also reported significant patient medical needs in the acute postoperative period including pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, inflammation, and complications resulting in hospital readmissions. Colorectal cancer patients specifically experienced significant challenges with changes in diet and nutrition that contributed to ostomy care burden. Both patients and caregivers recommended seeking psychological and social support to enhance both patient and caregiver emotional adjustment to life after ostomies.

Conclusion: Meeting patient and informal caregiver unmet informational and supportive care needs is imperative to improve their quality of life and adjustment.

Implications for nursing practice: An effective supportive care plan should be designed and utilized in clinical care to improve ostomy patients' and caregivers' outcomes.

Keywords: Bladder cancer; Colorectal cancer; Ostomies; Ostomy care; Quality of life; Unmet needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Ostomy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support
  • Urinary Bladder