Title. Experiences of self-care in patients with colorectal cancer: a longitudinal study.
Aim. This paper is a report of a study to explore patients’ experiences of self-care during a 6-month course of chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer.
Background. A greater degree of patient involvement in self-care is increasingly being encouraged, however, little is known about patients’ experiences of being actively involved in their self-care.
Methods. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 11 patients at the beginning and end of their treatment for colorectal cancer in a Scottish cancer centre between March 2005 and June 2006. The ways in which participants were actively involved in managing the impact of undergoing chemotherapy treatment and their understandings of the meaning of self-care were explored.
Findings. Patients carried out self-care in order to preserve their self-identity and maintain a sense of normality. Self-care activities intended to manage both the physical and emotional impact of undergoing treatment included the use of medications and nutritional supplements and reducing food intake, information-seeking and -sharing experiences with fellow patients and rationalizing the purpose and effects of their chemotherapy treatment.
Conclusion. Nurses have an important role to play in ensuring that patients’ perspectives and priorities for self-care, in particular what they do, why they do it and what it means to them, and that they are listened to, in order to help them achieve their desired level of involvement in self-care. Interventions to promote self-care should focus on helping people to preserve their self-identity, as well as managing the emotional toll and physical side effects associated with cancer treatment.