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Treatment trajectories of individuals diagnosed with rectal cancer: an interpretative phenomenological study

06 June 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 11


Rectal cancer affects almost every aspect of an individual's daily life. However, there are gaps in understanding the complete spectrum of experiences spanning from diagnosis to recovery. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the treatment trajectories of individuals diagnosed with rectal cancer. Adopting an interpretative phenomenological approach, seven participants were recruited using purposive sampling. Data were collected using semi-structured, in-depth interviews that were digitally recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Study rigour was established following the four-dimension criteria of credibility, dependability, transferability and confirmability. Four prominent themes emerged from the participants' experiences of undergoing rectal cancer treatment: uncovering the inner battles; navigating the physical challenges; anchors of support and conquering the summit. These findings contribute to knowledge and practice by highlighting the importance of providing a comprehensive and individualised treatment plan for individuals that takes account of the physical and psycho-emotional implications of rectal cancer treatment.

Colorectal cancer (CRC), commonly referred to as colon, rectal or bowel cancer, is the third most common cancer diagnosed worldwide, with more than 1.9 million new cases reported during 2020 (World Cancer Research Fund, 2023). In the UK, CRC is the fourth most common cancer, with an estimated 42886 people diagnosed each year and approximately 16800 recorded deaths per annum (Cancer Research UK, 2023a). According to Bowel Cancer UK (2024), more than nine out of every 10 new cases of CRC are diagnosed in adults aged over 50, whereas approximately 2600 new cases are among those aged under 50 each year.

Although the incidence of CRC has risen, survival rates have doubled during the past four decades. According to Bowel Cancer UK (2024) around 268000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer. Recent figures report that three in every four individuals survive their cancer in the first year after diagnosis (NHS Digital, 2023).

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