Palliative and Supportive Care

Original Articles

The patient lived experience for surgical treatment of colorectal liver metastases: A phenomenological study

Laurence E. McCahilla1 c1 and Brenda P. Hamel-Bissella1

a1 College of Medicine and College of Nursing & Health Sciences, The University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont


Objective: The treatment experience for patients undergoing surgical treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC) liver metastasis is understudied. This study sought to identify common themes in this experience in order to identify factors of importance in treatment decision making.

Methods: The study utilized the phenomenological qualitative research approach. In-depth patient interviews conducted by a nurse researcher were tape-recorded and analyzed using the Colaizzi procedural steps.

Results: All participants were interviewed and included 7 men and 5 women, ages 43–75, each with treatment experience with both chemotherapy and major surgery. Participants did not recall their decision to undergo liver surgery as a single event, rather as another in a series of health care choices during the long continuum of their CRC cancer disease experience. Seven common themes that emerged from the analyses of interviews as having significant impact on their treatment experience were communication with the health care provider, support from others, the patient's own attitude, cure uncertainty, coping strategies, hospital care concerns, and Internet information.

Significance of results: This study identified factors of importance to patients that may serve to enhance communication, education, treatment satisfaction, and access to surgery for patients with CRC liver metastases. Further validation of our findings with a broader patient population is necessary.

(Received May 20 2008)

(Accepted July 19 2008)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Laurence McCahill, University of Vermont, Department of Surgery, 89 Beaumont Avenue, Given E309, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail: