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J Surg Res. 2007 Mar;138(1):79-87. Epub 2006 Dec 29.

Quality of life outcomes in 599 cancer and non-cancer patients with colostomies.

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General and Oncologic Department of Surgery, City of Hope National Medical Center, Nursing Research and Education, Duarte, California 91010, USA.



A colostomy is known to impact negatively on a patient's quality of life (QOL). Concerns include incontinence, rectal discharge, gas, difficulties in returning to work, decreased sexual activity, and travel and leisure challenges. Reports have described QOL outcomes in cancer patients with colostomies and inflammatory bowel syndrome with colostomies, but little has been written regarding a comparison of cancer and non-cancer populations. The purpose of this study was to describe QOL issues of colostomy patients and compare these issues in cancer and non-cancer participants.


A QOL-ostomy questionnaire was mailed to 2455 California members of the United Ostomy Association.


Of the 1457 respondents (59%), 599 had a colostomy. Most were results from cancer (517/599), with colorectal cancer being the most common diagnosis. The most common benign diagnoses were inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis. Demographics were similar, except for more females in the non-cancer group (76%), and increased length of time with colostomy from the cancer group (mean 135.9 versus 106.4 months, P = 0.03). Common QOL problems included sexual problems, gas, constipation, travel difficulties, and dissatisfaction with appearance. Overall, cancer patients had less difficulty adjusting to their colostomies.


Results confirmed the negative impact of a colostomy on QOL. While patients with cancer had a better overall QOL than those with benign processes, concerns were common to all colostomy patients. These results provide health care practitioners with information useful in discussing QOL concerns during pre-operation treatment decisions and post operative teaching and follow-up care.

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