Background: Up to 80% of patients with rectal cancer undergo sphincter-saving surgery, and almost 90% of them experience subsequent physical changes. The number of studies on gender differences in response to this surgery has increased, and the connection between gender and symptoms and patient outcomes has generated increasing interest. Nevertheless, little is known about the gender differences in quality of life and cancer-related symptoms. We examined gender differences and quality of life changes over a 1-year period among patients with lower rectal cancer who were treated with sphincter-saving surgery. Methods: Patients (men = 42; women = 33) completed a self-administered questionnaire on their quality of life and related factors before surgery and 1, 6, and 12 months afterwards. The questionnaire was developed by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC QLQ-C30/CR-38). Results: Scores on physical, role, and social functioning and global health status/quality of life decreased 1 month after surgery, improved after 6 months, and returned to baseline within 12 months, with the exception of social functioning in men. Factors related to quality of life changed after surgery and differed between men and women. Women's global health status/quality of life was affected by fatigue, weight loss, defecation problems, and future perspective, while that of men was affected by fatigue, weight loss, future perspective, and role functioning, which was affected by pain, defecation problems, and financial difficulties. Conclusions: Gender differences should be considered when predicting the quality of life of cancer patients undergoing surgery. Identifying gender differences will help health care providers anticipate the unique needs of patients undergoing surgery for rectal cancer.
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