A study looking at a questionnaire about bowel function after surgery for rectal cancer

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Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Rectal cancer





This study looked at how useful a new questionnaire was to look at bowel function after surgery for cancer of the rectum (back passage).

More about this trial

Having surgery to remove cancer of the rectum can have a major impact on how your bowels work. This can affect your quality of life Open a glossary item. So it is important to find out how best to manage any problem. 

To do this healthcare professionals must be able to assess the problem properly. The study team developed a questionnaire to help them.

This study compared this questionnaire with a similar one to find out how well it worked.

Researchers wanted to develop a tool to predict how well the bowel might function after surgery. 

Doctors could use this to help people understand the risk of bowel surgery and how it might affect them. They could also use it to identify people who might need extra support after their surgery. 


Summary of results

The study team developed an online tool called POLARS (pre operative low anterior resection syndrome). It can help to predict how well the bowel will work after surgery to remove bowel cancer. 
About this study
The purpose of this study was to:
  • develop a model that could predict how well the bowels worked after surgery  
  • test the model and confirm it worked
  • develop an online tool to better predict how well an individual’s bowel might work after surgery 
3 questionnaires were sent out to people who had bowel surgery to remove their cancer. 
This study was run in the UK and Denmark. 
It was open to people who had surgery to remove their bowel cancer more than a year ago. 
In the UK between July 2013 and February 2014 the questionnaires were sent out by post. 463 people returned their questionnaires.  
In Denmark between February 2009 and July 2009 the questionnaires were sent out by post. 938 people returned their questionnaires. 
The information from both the UK and Denmark was used to develop the online POLARS tool. And to confirm that it worked. 
The team found there were 5 key factors that could predict how well the bowel worked after surgery to remove cancer. They are:
  • your age at time of surgery
  • how close to the anus your cancer is
  • if all or only part of your back passage (rectum) is removed
  • if your bowel has been attached to the outside of your body by an opening (stoma)
  • if you have radiotherapy before surgery
The study team concluded the online tool Pre-Operative LARS score (POLARS) can predict how well the bowel worked after surgery to remove bowel cancer. 
Surgeons, specialist doctors and specialist nurses can use POLARS to help people understand the risk that their bowel might not work very well after surgery.
By having a more informed talk about bowel function before surgery, people are more likely to seek help if problems occur.
In some cases, the predicted working of the bowel may be so poor and the effects on quality of life so marked, that people may choose to have a permanent stoma rather have their bowel joined back together. 
They can also use POLARS to highlight people who might need additional support after surgery. 
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Brendan Moran

Supported by

NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Pelican Cancer Foundation


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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

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