Supportive Care for Anal Cancer Patients

Anal cancer and its treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery may affect the patient in a variety of ways. It can change not only the physical but also functional, social and psychological aspects of a patient’s quality of life as well as their families. They need total support from the time of the diagnosis, course of treatment, and long-term monitoring or follow up after. The following are some effects of cancer that need to be addressed accordingly. 




Cancer May Affect Patients’ Nutritional Status. They may experience poor appetite since they are emotionally-stressed about their illness, from the effects of treatment regimen like nausea and vomiting and diarrhea, and the extent of their disease that may affect the metabolism of essential nutrients needed by our body. Dieticians or nurses providing direct care can provide nutritional education and counseling to the patient and family. The family should be involved as part of the team as they can afford psychosocial support towards patients’ dietary practices. Medications like appetite stimulants and vitamins as prescribed can help. 

“While the emotional, practical, social, and spiritual impact of cancer is often in the form of distress, many people are positively affected by cancer. As patients and/or family members experience this positive influence on their lives, it is often something they talk with our therapists about to make sense of for themselves.” says Cheyenne Corbett, PhD, LMFT




Impaired Skin Integrity Problems. Skin integrity of anal cancer patients especially with a wound or after surgery like abdominoperineal resections with permanent colostomy needs to appropriate care. Stoma care nurses can provide education about colostomy care and help patients adapt to having a colostomy. Patients receiving radiation can experience skin changes during or after treatment. Training regarding skin care by keeping the affected clean and well hydrated and protection for the further injury like avoidance of constrictive clothing and exposure to sunlight should be provided. 

Infection. Neutropenia is one of the most common side effects on cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. It is a condition in which there is a marked decreased of circulating neutrophils, our first line of defense against infection. Hand washing is one of the critical intervention to prevent infection. Maintaining personal hygiene, proper oral care, safe food handling and limiting visitors are some precautionary measures also. Oral antibiotics are given as prophylaxis in neutropenic patients, and once infection has been established, antimicrobial treatment should be started immediately.  

Sexual Practices. The sexual problem also arises in anal cancer patients. Some lose interest in sex at the time of diagnosis, during treatment and post-treatment. This might be due to the physical or emotional effect of cancer. The patient can seek help from doctors or do counseling on how to cope and improve the sexual relationship. 

Psychological Effects. Patient diagnosed with anal cancer also needs psychosocial care as well as their families. A cancer diagnosis can create stressful feelings for the patient and their family.  It demands individual and entire family positive outlook and active involvement on how to cope with the illness.  Extended support from community, friends or groups like cancer society people that can provide emotional support, is a big help. 



“There are so many things that cancer patients need to communicate to their loved ones. These range from sharing the diagnosis, what the treatment will look like, specifics about how the treatment is affecting them, where they need help, where/when they need privacy, financial decisions, end-of-life planning and decision making, etc.” says June C. Foss, LMFT.

Cancer is one of the leading cause of death worldwide. But remember that fighting cancer is not an individual battle. It needs support that involves a multidisciplinary team with the same end in providing a good quality of life for all cancer patients. “Many cancers can be prevented and regress if carbohydrate intake is restricted.” says Jack C Westman M.D.

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