- General Surgery and Urology
- BACKGROUND: Achieving full recovery after colorectal cancer surgery means a return to normal physical and psychological health and to a normal social life. Recovery data focusses on time to discharge rather than longer term functionality including return to work (RTW). We aim to assess return to normal holistic function at 1 year after colorectal cancer surgery. METHOD: Questionnaires were created and dispatched to 204 patients who had undergone surgery with curative intent for colorectal cancer, in 2011-2012, in a single teaching hospital. RESULTS: Response rate was 75 % (153/204), 82 % (129/157) for open surgery (OS) and 51 % (24/47) for laparoscopic surgery (LS). Median age was 68 (48-91) years for OS and 65 (36-84) for LS. Eighty-four per cent of patients felt 'ready' and 95 % had adequate pain control upon discharge (no difference between groups). LS reported earlier 'return to full fitness' (1-3 months) than OS (>6 months; Mann-Whitney U, p < 0.05). Recovery from LS was 'better than expected' compared to OS 'worse than expected' (Mann-Whitney U test, p < 0.05). Forty-nine patients were employed preoperatively and 61 % (n = 30) returned to work. RTW was more frequent after LS (Chi-square test, p < 0.05). Length of time to RTW was significantly less after LS [44 (6-84) days] than OS [71 (14-252) days] (t test, p < 0.05). Levels of self-employment were equal between groups. CONCLUSIONS: One-third of patients failed to RTW at 1 year post-surgery. Patients having LS returned to full fitness faster, felt recovery was shorter and returned to work earlier than OS. We must invest more in managing expectations and provide better post-discharge support to improve RTW.