Patients’ perspectives and the perceptions of healthcare providers in the treatment of early rectal cancer; a qualitative study

Lisanne J.H. Smits*, Annabel S. van Lieshout, Saskia Debets, Sacha Spoor, Leon M.G. Moons, Koen C.M.J. Peeters, Stefan E. van Oostendorp, Olga C. Damman, Rien J.P.A. Janssens, Wytze Lameris, Nicole C.T. van Grieken, Jurriaan B. Tuynman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Shared decision-making has become of increased importance in choosing the most suitable treatment strategy for early rectal cancer, however, clinical decision-making is still primarily based on physicians’ perspectives. Balancing quality of life and oncological outcomes is difficult, and guidance on patients’ involvement in this subject in early rectal cancer is limited. Therefore, this study aimed to explore preferences and priorities of patients as well as physicians’ perspectives in treatment for early rectal cancer. Methods: In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were performed with early rectal cancer patients (n = 10) and healthcare providers (n = 10). Participants were asked which factors influenced their preferences and how important these factors were. Thematic analyses were performed. In addition, participants were asked to rank the discussed factors according to importance to gain additional insights. Results: Patients addressed the following relevant factors: the risk of an ostomy, risk of poor bowel function and treatment related complications. Healthcare providers emphasized oncological outcomes as tumour recurrence, risk of an ostomy and poor bowel function. Patients perceived absolute risks of adverse outcome to be lower than healthcare providers and were quite willing undergo organ preservation to achieve a better prospect of quality of life. Conclusion: Patients’ preferences in treatment of early rectal cancer vary between patients and frequently differ from assumptions of preferences by healthcare providers. To optimize future shared decision-making, healthcare providers should be aware of these differences and should invite patients to explore and address their priorities more explicitly during consultation. Factors deemed important by both physicians and patients should be expressed during consultation to decide on a tailored treatment strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1266
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2023


  • Early rectal cancer
  • Organ preservation
  • Patients’ perspectives


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