Colorectal Cancer

Support from health care professionals

While the primary task of health professionals is to deal with people's medical needs, treating people rather than diseases requires attention to emotional as well as physical needs. It is also important to identify gaps in support that may occur as people's needs change through their cancer experience and they move between primary and secondary care. Poor communication between hospitals and GPs often makes it difficult for GPs and others who provide support in the community to know when and what kind of support might be needed. 

Simple acts of kindness on the part of health professionals often had a powerful impact on people's emotional state and ability to cope with their illness. A woman explains how it helped her when a nurse offered to hold her hand. Another woman who became depressed in hospital was moved when a nurse took the time to wash her legs and feet. The warmth and approachability of a GP and surgeon made a third woman feel especially well looked after.

Macmillan Nurses and specialist stoma care nurses were highly regarded. Many people appreciated the combination of practical and emotional support that both groups of nurses routinely offered. 

GP support after treatment for cancer was a difficulty for many people and it was sometimes difficult for GPs to strike the right balance. One young woman who experienced a delayed diagnosis felt that, after treatment for cancer, her GP was over-reacting to any sign of illness. Other people felt their GPs were indifferent or unprepared to deal with cancer patients.

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A woman who had become so severely constipated after surgery that she had to be re-admitted to hospital was advised by her GP to 'drink some cold water'. A man who had a temporary colostomy was told by his GP that organising stoma care support was not his responsibility.

Another man felt his GP was indifferent to his needs and shocked when he suggested he could go back to work four weeks after major surgery even though his job involved heavy lifting. He explains how he changed GPs and the difference between the old and new one. Several people said their GP admitted to knowing little or nothing about aftercare for bowel (colorectal) cancer patients or the needs of people undergoing chemotherapy.

People who had good GP support after treatment for cancer felt that this greatly aided them in their recovery and helped them regain confidence in their health. 

Support for patients between diagnosis and treatment was also a difficult area. One woman explains how she spent the weekend after receiving her diagnosis on a Friday. She also argues the need for better community aftercare once people leave hospital.

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Last reviewed August 2016.


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