This longitudinal descriptive study examined whether rectal cancer patients report changes in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) over a 6-month period after different types of sphincter-saving surgery (SSS): intersphincteric resection (ISR), ultra-low anterior resection (ULAR) and low anterior resection (LAR). It also compares HRQOL among the three groups of patients. Seventy-three patients from two hospitals in Japan completed questionnaires on HRQOL and defecation symptoms immediately before surgery and 1 and 6 months afterwards. Results showed that ISR patients had significantly worse HRQOL scores than ULAR and LAR patients and more defecation symptoms that persisted during the 6 months post-SSS. Thus, patients undergoing ISR require psychological and social support, including skills in competent self-management, during the early post-operative period. Furthermore, defecation problems substantially influence HRQOL. The first month post-SSS is particularly challenging. The assumption that HRQOL is better after SSS compared to living with a permanent stoma might not be valid.
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