Patient-Reported Sexual Function, Bladder Function and Quality of Life for Patients with Low Rectal Cancers with or without a Permanent Ostomy

Michael K. Rooney, Melisa Pasli, George J. Chang, Prajnan Das, Eugene J. Koay, Albert C. Koong, Ethan B. Ludmir, Bruce D. Minsky, Sonal S. Noticewala, Oliver Peacock, Grace L. Smith, Emma B. Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the increasing utilization of sphincter and/or organ-preservation treatment strategies, many patients with low-lying rectal cancers require abdominoperineal resection (APR), leading to permanent ostomy. Here, we aimed to characterize overall, sexual-, and bladder-related patient-reported quality of life (QOL) for individuals with low rectal cancers. We additionally aimed to explore potential differences in patient-reported outcomes between patients with and without a permanent ostomy. Methods: We distributed a comprehensive survey consisting of various patient-reported outcome measures, including the FACT-G7 survey, ICIQ MLUTS/FLUTS, IIEF-5/FSFI, and a specific questionnaire for ostomy patients. Descriptive statistics and univariate comparisons were used to compared demographics, treatments, and QOL scores between patients with and without a permanent ostomy. Results: Of the 204 patients contacted, 124 (60.8%) returned completed surveys; 22 (18%) of these had a permanent ostomy at the time of survey completion. There were 25 patients with low rectal tumors (≤5 cm from the anal verge) who did not have an ostomy at the time of survey completion, of whom 13 (52%) were managed with a non-operative approach. FACTG7 scores were numerically lower (median 20.5 vs. 22, p = 0.12) for individuals with an ostomy. Sexual function measures IIEF and FSFI were also lower (worse) for individuals with ostomies, but the results were not significantly different. MLUTS and FLUTS scores were both higher in individuals with ostomies (median 11 vs. 5, p = 0.06 and median 17 vs. 5.5, p = 0.01, respectively), suggesting worse urinary function. Patient-reported ostomy-specific challenges included gastrointestinal concerns (e.g., gas, odor, diarrhea) that may affect social activities and personal relationships. Conclusions: Despite a limited sample size, this study provides patient-centered, patient-derived data regarding long-term QOL in validated measures following treatment of low rectal cancers. Ostomies may have multidimensional negative impacts on QOL, and these findings warrant continued investigation in a prospective setting. These results may be used to inform shared decision making for individuals with low rectal cancers in both the settings of organ preservation and permanent ostomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 28 2023


  • PROs
  • bladder function
  • ostomy
  • quality of life
  • rectal cancer
  • sexual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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