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Dietary and behavioral adjustments to control bowel function by long-term colorectal cancer survivors.
Abstracts that were granted an exception in accordance with ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy are designated with a caret symbol (^).
Background: Bowel dysfunction is a known complication of colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment, and has a detrimental impact on survivors’ health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The prevalence of dietary and behavioral modifications in CRC survivors has been described in only a small number of studies. To better understand dietary and behavioral adjustments that long-term (≥ 5 years) CRC survivors make to regulate their bowel function, we performed a mixed methods analysis, comparing survivors with a permanent ostomy and those with anastomosis. Methods: CRC survivors with or without permanent ostomies were surveyed with the modified version of the City of Hope Quality of Life for Ostomy tool (N=919).Dietary adjustments were compared by ostomy status (ostomy versus anastomosis) and higher quartile versus lower quartile HRQOL scores.Student’s t-tests were used to compare HRQOL measures between groups. Qualitative data from 13 focus groups (N=63) and interviews with 30 female ostomates were analyzed to explore specific strategies used for regulating bowel function. Results: CRC survivors make substantial andpermanent dietary adjustments following treatment. The majority of survivors reported that they took more than one month to feel comfortable with their diet, and many (10% to 18%) never became comfortable. No significant dietary adjustment differences were noted based on ostomy status. Survivors who took less time (<1 month) to feel comfortable with their diet and for their appetite to return had better HRQOL (p < 0.001) ≥ 5 years later. Adjustments to control bowel function consisted of four overall strategies: dietary adjustments, behavioral adjustments, exercise, and medications. Conclusions: CRC survivors use a multitude of adaptive strategies to control their bowel function. Many survivors struggle with unpredictable bowel function continually for the rest of their lives, and many never find any set of management strategies to achieve regularity. Understanding the myriad of adjustments made by CRC survivors will lead to evidence-based recommendations to foster positive adjustments after cancer treatment.