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A study to investigate women's experiences of radiation enteritis following radiotherapy for cervical cancer

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Abstract Background 

Radiotherapy remains the standard treatment for cervical cancer, especially for more advanced disease. It is estimated that the prevalence of chronic radiation enteritis (CRE) post-radiotherapy is in the region of 5–15% ( ). However, preliminary studies at the study hospital suggest the problem to be more widespread (C. Israel, unpublished data). Aim 

This qualitative study of 10 cervical cancer patients investigates experiences of CRE and its impact on quality of life. Methods 

Informed volunteers participated in one-to-one tape-recorded in-depth interviews exploring experiences following treatment. These interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using NUD*IST Nvivo. Results 

The majority of women reported side-effects from radiotherapy, predominantly diarrhoea. CRE had a significant impact upon the physical, psychological and social aspects of life of sufferers, enforcing some to be virtually housebound. Other sufferers were managing their symptoms with regular medication and/or self-imposed restricted diets. Few of these women had ever sought professional help in dealing with their problems because of embarrassment or reluctance to complain. Conclusions 

If untreated the side-effects of CRE have a disabling affect on sufferers, who may be reluctant to seek help about their symptoms. Health professionals need to be more pro-active in identifying and caring for sufferers of CRE.

Keywords: cervical cancer; chronic radiation enteritis; dietary advice; women's experiences

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Liverpool Women's Hospital, Crown Street, Liverpool, UK 2: School of the Outdoors, Leisure and Food, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool

Publication date: 2005-10-01

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