Long-term gastrointestinal sequelae in colon cancer survivors: prospective pilot study on identification, the need for clinical evaluation and effects of treatment

Colorectal Dis. 2021 Feb;23(2):356-366. doi: 10.1111/codi.15544. Epub 2021 Feb 3.


Aim: The aim of the present pilot study was to describe the type and frequency of long-term gastrointestinal symptoms within a well-defined cohort of colon cancer survivors, their wish for clinical evaluation and treatment outcomes.

Method: A screening survey was sent to colon cancer survivors 12, 24 and 36 months after surgery. Based on their main symptoms, patients who wished to have a consultation were referred to the gastroenterological or surgical unit of our late cancer sequelae clinic. Treatment effect was monitored by questionnaires on bowel symptoms and the EuroQol five-dimensional (EQ-5D) quality-of-life score.

Results: Overall, 953 patients who had survived colon cancer received the screening survey and 767 replied (response rate 80.5%). Of these, 76 (9.9%; 95% CI 7.9%-12.2%) were referred for algorithm-based clinical evaluation and treatment of bowel dysfunction. The majority were women (69.7%) who had undergone a right-sided colonic resection (65.8%). Patients reported various symptoms, mainly including urgency, fragmented defaecation, loose stools and incontinence for liquid stools. Patients with emptying difficulties and low anterior resection syndrome-like symptoms were referred to the surgical unit and patients with diarrhoea were referred to the gastroenterological unit for clinical work-up. Our main endpoint, mean EQ-5D index after treatment, was improved compared with baseline (baseline 0.809, after treatment 0.846; p = 0.049). After treatment, self-rated bowel function and several bowel symptoms were improved as well.

Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of identifying colon cancer survivors in need of treatment of late gastrointestinal sequelae and clinical management in a multidisciplinary team setting.

Keywords: bowel dysfunction; cancer survivors; colon cancer; gastrointestinal sequelae; late adverse effects.