Caregiving and mutuality among long-term colorectal cancer survivors with ostomies: qualitative study

Andrea Altschuler, Petra Liljestrand, Marcia Grant, Mark C. Hornbrook, Robert S. Krouse, Carmit K. McMullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: The cancer caregiving literature focuses on the early phases of survivorship, but caregiving can continue for decades when cancer creates disability. Survivors with an ostomy following colorectal cancer (CRC) have caregiving needs that may last decades. Mutuality has been identified as a relationship component that can affect caregiving. This paper discusses how mutuality may affect long-term ostomy caregiving. Methods: We conducted semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 31 long-term CRC survivors with ostomies and their primary informal caregivers. Interviewees were members of an integrated health care delivery system in the USA. We used inductive theme analysis techniques to analyze the interviews. Results: Most survivors were 71 years of age or older (67%), female (55%), and with some college education (54%). Two thirds lived with and received care from spouses. Caregiving ranged from minimal support to intimate assistance with daily ostomy care. While some survivors received caregiving far beyond what was needed, others did not receive adequate caregiving for their health care needs. Low mutuality created challenges for ostomy caregiving. Conclusions: Mutuality impacts the quality of caregiving, and this quality may change over time, depending on various factors. Emotional feedback and amplification is the proposed mechanism by which mutuality may shift over time. Survivorship care should include assessment and support of mutuality as a resource to enhance health outcomes and quality of life for survivors with long-term caregiving needs and their caregivers. Appropriate questionnaires can be identified or developed to assess mutuality over the survivorship trajectory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-537
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Caregiving
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Emotional amplification
  • Mutuality
  • Ostomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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