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Non-curative surgical oncology: postoperative needs and preferences


Objective When intended curative cancer surgery is not completed, the postoperative transition to palliative care represents a prognostic landmark to patients and their families. In patients referred for highly specialised surgery for peritoneal metastases from the intestinal tract and ovaries, surgery is not performed in approximately 25%. Still, little is known of their postoperative needs and preferences.

Methods We performed 14 qualitative research interviews with 12 patients (four men and eight women, aged 41–85 years) undergoing surgery for peritoneal metastases; five of these were together with a relative. Five of the participants had ovarian, and seven had colorectal cancer (four men and seven women). The interviews followed a semistructured interview guide, were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using meaning condensation.

Results Patients accepted the surgeon’s decision of refraining from the intended surgery. During the postoperative period, when realising the prognostic consequences, their needs changed rapidly, in some cases from day to day, and gradually they developed a reoriented focus on their lives. The findings were framed by two themes dealing with ‘Change in treatment strategy’ and ‘Physical and psychosocial aspects of not undergoing curative surgery’.

Conclusion When curative cancer surgery is not completed as intended, patient-centred communication is essential for patients’ psychosocial reorientation and quality of life. Further, to support their well-being and action competences, patients have a need for basic supportive care and physical restitution. Finally, high-quality postoperative palliative care needs to be coordinated, which requires staff training and reorganisation of pathways.

  • cancer
  • hospital care
  • prognosis
  • quality of life
  • supportive care
  • survivorship

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. The study was approved by the Danish Data Protection Agency (File no 1-16-02-119-16), provided that the participants are guaranteed anonymity.

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