Gwilliam, B. and Bailey, C.
The nature of terminal malignant bowel obstruction and its impact on patients with advanced cancer
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 7, (10), .
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Patients with bowel obstruction due to advanced cancer often have a poor prognosis and suffer distressing symptoms that can be difficult to manage. Research to date has focused on medical interventions and the measurement and control of symptoms. Little attention has been given to patients’ perceptions of their quality of life or the impact of their illness. This study aimed to explore patients’ lived experience of bowel obstruction. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten patients with bowel obstruction due to gynaecological or gastric cancer. Data analysis was based on an adaptation of Giorgi (1975) and Parse et al’s (1985a,b) phenomenological method. Findings suggest that the ‘meaning’ of being unable to eat is more significant for patients than the nutritional or biological loss of food. For some patients, bowel obstruction marks a process of transition from life to death which is characterized by a sense of social disengagement and disrupted identity. Interviews highlighted aspects of the nurse–patient relationship that were therapeutic in their own right.
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