Nursing care for patients undergoing pelvic exenteration for rectal cancers
Intended for healthcare professionals
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Nursing care for patients undergoing pelvic exenteration for rectal cancers

Jennie Burch Enhanced recovery nurse, St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow, London
Claire Taylor Macmillan colorectal nurse consultant, St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow, London

Pelvic exenteration is an established surgical procedure aimed at removing primary locally advanced pelvic cancers or recurrent pelvic cancers. Exenteration is major surgery, involving considerable risk of morbidity and prolonged recovery. Patient suitability should be considered carefully and all potential complications discussed pre-operatively so that patients can make an informed choice about treatment.

This article focuses on pelvic exenteration for patients with rectal or anal cancer. The surgery involves removal of the rectum and possibly also the bladder, and therefore stoma formation. In addition to physical challenges, such as pain and fatigue, patients face emotional issues such as altered body image. Nursing care is therefore crucial and, ideally, should be provided by a specialist service to ensure that all members of the multidisciplinary team are able to contribute to patient-centred care.

This article explores the elements of nursing care after surgery and in the longer term, including pain management, mobility, nutrition, fatigue, stoma care, continence and support with psychological issues such as sexuality. The management of potential post-operative complications, such as unplanned return to surgery, is also discussed.

Cancer Nursing Practice. 15, 8, 20-25. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2016.e1322


Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 13 May 2016

Accepted: 22 August 2016

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