Cancer survivors’ challenges with ostomy appliances and self-management: a qualitative analysis

  • Virginia SunEmail author
  • Octavio Bojorquez
  • Marcia Grant
  • Christopher S. Wendel
  • Ronald Weinstein
  • Robert S. Krouse



An ostomy poses significant health-related quality of life (HRQOL) issues for cancer survivors. Survivors must learn to manage pouching appliances and adjust to the psychosocial consequences of living with an ostomy. We explored, through qualitative analysis, the challenges with self-management and ostomy appliances reported by cancer survivors.


Pooled data from two studies with a question on the greatest challenge of living with an ostomy and intervention session notes were analyzed using content analysis approach. The themes were reviewed and agreed upon by the research team, and counts were tallied for each theme based on the number of times they were mentioned by participants.


Of the 928 greatest challenge responses and session notes, a total of 106 mentions (11%) were focused on ostomy appliances, associated repercussions, and time taken for ostomy care. Eight themes emerged: bleeding, pain, leakage, skin problems/irritation/rash, wafer-related issues, materials getting under the wafer, time to care for ostomy, and solutions to clean the stoma. Challenges described included poor wafer adherence, allergic reactions to adhesives, and pain around the stoma site. These challenges resulted in anxiety related to leakage, odor, and/or skin irritation, which negatively impacted on participation in social activities and self-confidence with ostomy care.


Cancer survivors living with an ostomy experience multiple obstacles with ostomy appliances and caring for their ostomy. Continued innovation in ostomy appliance design and technology is needed to help cancer survivors with successfully managing ostomy care.


Cancer Survivorship Ostomy Self-management Ostomy appliance 


Funding information

The research described was supported by grants R01CA106912, P30CA23074 from the National Cancer Institute. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute or NIH.

Research reported in this article was also funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Award (1507-31690). The statements presented in this article are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), its Board of Governors or Methodology Committee.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia Sun
    • 1
    Email author
  • Octavio Bojorquez
    • 2
  • Marcia Grant
    • 1
  • Christopher S. Wendel
    • 2
  • Ronald Weinstein
    • 3
  • Robert S. Krouse
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Nursing Research and Education, Department of Population SciencesCity of HopeDuarteUSA
  2. 2.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Arizona Telemedicine Program, University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of Pennsylvania and the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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