Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Disappearing Floors and Second Chances: Men's Journeys of Prostate Cancer

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Disappearing Floors and Second Chances: Men's Journeys of Prostate Cancer

Article excerpt

The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to explore the lived experience of men with prostate cancer. Fifteen men in Western Canada who had received treatment for prostate cancer were interviewed and encouraged to provide their stories about experiencing prostate cancer from the initial diagnosis on. Men narrated the experience of prostate cancer as a journey, starting with the shock and soul-searching of initial diagnosis, continuing on as they "fumbled in the dark" for information and coped with the various threats to their masculinity, and concluding with lessons they had learned along the way. Although some men minimized the experience of prostate cancer as merely something to be "fixed," other men saw the illness as a potentially transformative experience. For them, prostate cancer gave them a "second chance" to re-evaluate their priorities in life, and to experience their lives as men in a changed and transformed manner. This paper adds to the existing literature by not only offering a mapping out the "patient careers" of men with prostate cancer, but also by re-focusing men's experiences of prostate cancer as a means by which to grow as persons and men.

Keywords: men, prostate cancer, qualitative study, symbolic meaning


Prostate cancer is now the most common potentially life-threatening cancer in men in many Western countries, including the United States (American Cancer Society, 2000; U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group, 2002), Canada (National Cancer Institute of Canada, 1999), Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2002), and the United Kingdom (Prior & Waxman, 2000). The incidence of prostate cancer continues to climb in many Western countries such as Canada (Morrison, MacNeill, Miller, Levy, Xie, & Mao, 1995), and it has been predicted that by the year 2050 prostate cancel" will be the second most prevalent male cancer worldwide (Parkin, Bray, & Devesa, 2001). Not only does prostate cancer pose direct threats to the health of men, but the various treatments for prostate cancer, including surgery, radiation and hormone therapy, are associated with numerous distressing side-effects such as incontinence, impotence, fatigue, loss of libido, hot flashes, bodily feminization and depression (Balderson & Towell, 2003; Bennet & Badger, 2005; Gray, Klotz, et al., 1997; Gray, Fitch, Phillips, Labrecque, & Fergus, 2000; Heyman & Rosner, 1996; Pirl, Siegel, Goode, & Smith, 2002).

Given the current prevalence of prostate cancer, and the physical and psychological sequelae associated with its treatment, there have been growing calls for more research on prostate cancer (Chapple & Ziebland, 2002; Gall, 2004; Heyman & Rosner, 1996; Kelly, 2004; Pinnock, O'Brien, & Marshall, 1998), particularly research examining psychological aspects of the illness, such as how men cope with the threat to their well-being. Numerous authors have specifically suggested that more qualitative research is needed on men's experiences with prostate cancer, to determine how men react to and cope with the challenges that prostate cancer poses, such as threats to their masculinity (Chapple & Ziebland, 2002; Gray, Fitch, Davis, & Phillips, 1997; Gray, Fitch, Fergus, Mykhalovskiy, & Church, 2002; Hedestig, Sandman, & Widmark, 2003; Pinnock, O'Brien, & Marshall, 1998; Wall & Kristjanson, 2005).

Since 2000, a number of qualitative studies have been conducted on the issue. They have looked at aspects of the prostate cancer experience, including screening and testing (Chapple, Ziebland, Sheppard, et al., 2002; Kleier, 2004), information seeking (Feltwell & Rees, 2004; Rozmovits & Ziebland, 2004; Ziebland, 2004), treatment decision-making (Boehmer & Clark, 2001; O'Rourke & Germino, 1998), disclosure patterns (Gray, Fitch, Phillips, Labrecque, & Fergus, 1999), pre-surgical experiences (Gray, Fitch, Phillips, Labrecque, & Klotz, 1999), support groups (Coreil & Behal, 1999; Gray, Fitch, et al. …

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