Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Expressive Writing Improves Subjective Health among Testicular Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Expressive Writing Improves Subjective Health among Testicular Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt

The present pilot study examined the efficacy of a brief expressive writing intervention for helping testicular cancer (TC) survivors manage psychological, relational, and health complications associated with treatment and recovery. 48 men reported on mental health, quality of life, and sexual health, then took part in a 5week expressive writing intervention. Afterward, all participants again reported on the same measures used in the pre-test. A total of 28 men completed at least two writing sessions and were included in the analysis. Results revealed that, compared to men in both the negative expression and control conditions, men in the positive expression group experienced improvements in their mental health over the course of the 5-week trial.

Keywords: testicular cancer, expressive writing, cancer survivorship, quality of life

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I guess the most negative thing about having TC [testicular cancer] was that no one ever mentioned that it was something that should be checked for. With all the health classes and such that were mandatory with kids in school, not once was it brought up that young men should be checked for TC. We were never even informed we could get it, but even worse was that they still are not teaching young men about it. They always tell women to check for breast cancer and how it is done, and all ages are aware of what needs to be checked and how it should be checked. Teachers don't take the time to inform young men that this is something that needs to be done. Why is it all right to talk about breasts but not about testicles? Why not tell young men that it is all right to examine the testicle and what changes can take place? If there are changes, know what you should do about it and don't let it go any longer that it has to. Cancer is one of those words that when you get it people look uneasy, and even when you are a survivor they don't look at you like you know anything. Then as a survivor when you go to the doctor and complain about how you are feeling you are told, "Well at least you have survived."

--"Ben," a 54 year-old testicular cancer survivor

For men diagnosed with testicular cancer, the battle they face is fought on two fronts. The first is the medical treatment front, which entails numerous visits to the doctor and decisions regarding surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. As with every form of cancer, the news of the diagnosis is traumatic and the treatment that follows can often produce serious and potentially long-term side effects. The second front, which is somewhat specific to testicular cancer, is the shame and discomfort that comes from experiencing cancer in such an intimate part of the body. Some types of cancer in highly personal regions of the body, such as cervical cancer or breast cancer, have gained levels of awareness that have removed some of the embarrassment that patients experience as a result of their diagnoses. As the excerpt above suggests, however, testicular cancer lags behind many comparable cancers of the female body in terms of public consciousness and social acceptability. Although diagnoses of high-profile celebrities such as Lance Armstrong have helped to raise awareness in recent years (Oliver, 2001), testicular cancer remains a taboo topic for many men. Hopefully, the very public disclosures of Lance Armstrong and others dealing with testicular cancer will start a new conversation about testicular cancer, one that will enable men in future generations to discuss testicular cancer without fear of shame.

The early onset and low mortality rate of testicular cancer make issues of survivorship and quality of life especially salient. Since the typical patient contracts testicular cancer early in adulthood and undergoes successful treatment, he can expect to live a long life as a testicular cancer survivor (Travis, 2005). As a survivor, however, he must deal with the strain of follow-up examinations, the threat of cancer recurrence, and the potential for infertility, each of which can diminish his quality of life. …

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