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The diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer entail detailed discussions of bodily functions, invasive procedures, and a reorientation of life around bowel habit. Furthermore, people with stomas undergo a second experience of toilet training in adulthood. For these reasons, colorectal cancer is sometimes considered an embarrassing disease. Narrative interviews with colorectal cancer patients indicate the inadequacy of the concept of embarrassment in describing the loss of dignity, privacy, independence, and sexual confidence as well as a compromised ability to work, travel, and socialize. The link between bowel control and the constitution of adult identity must be acknowledged if health professionals and carers are to offer the most appropriate forms of information and support to people affected by colorectal cancer. © 2004 Sage Publications.

Original publication




Journal article


Qualitative Health Research

Publication Date





187 - 203