"I Wish There had been Resources": A Photo-Elicitation Study of Rectal Cancer Survivorship Care Needs

Ann Surg Oncol. 2023 Jun;30(6):3530-3537. doi: 10.1245/s10434-022-13042-6. Epub 2023 Feb 27.


Background: Rectal cancer survivors experience unique, prolonged posttherapy symptoms. Previous data indicate that providers are not skilled at identifying the most pertinent rectal cancer survivorship issues. Consequently, survivorship care is incomplete with the majority of rectal cancer survivors reporting at least one unmet posttherapy need.

Methods: This photo-elicitation study combines participant-submitted photographs and minimally structured qualitative interviews to explore one's lived experiences. Twenty rectal cancer survivors from a single tertiary canter provided photographs representative of their life after rectal cancer therapy. The iterative steps informed by inductive thematic analysis were used to analyze the transcribed interviews.

Results: Rectal cancer survivors had several recommendations to improve their survivorship care, which fell into three major themes: (1) informational needs (e.g., more details about posttherapy side effects); (2) continued multidisciplinary follow up care (e.g., dietary support); and (3) suggestions for support services (e.g., subsidized bowel altering medications and ostomy supplies).

Conclusions: Rectal cancer survivors desired more detailed and individualized information, access to longitudinal multidisciplinary follow-up care, and resources to ease the burdens of daily life. These needs may be met through the restructuring of rectal cancer survivorship care to include disease surveillance, symptom management, and support services. As screening and therapy continues to improve, providers must continue to screen and to provide services that address the physical and psychosocial needs of rectal cancer survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Survivors* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Survivors
  • Survivorship