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Men experienced and responded to the embodied and emotional effects of prostate cancer in different ways

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Question

How does the experience of prostate cancer affect masculine embodiment?

Design

Qualitative study using an ethnographic approach.

Setting

Clinics in the UK.

Participants

14 men with prostate cancer and 5 healthcare professionals (1 surgeon, 1 radiotherapist, and 3 specialist nurses).

Methods

Data were collected through individual interviews, observation of consultations and treatment and waiting areas over 18 months, and from media reports. Interview transcripts and field notes were analysed thematically.

Main findings

(1) Physical change: living with a new body. After prostate cancer, men found that their bodies no longer conformed to conventional ideas of masculinity. Some men accepted changes stoically, while others sought help in managing their losses. Some men were particularly concerned about loss of sexual function, whereas others were more concerned about incontinence: “I did not want my testicles operated on and become incontinent. That would be the end of my life…” Men who received sufficient advance information on their cancer and treatment options appeared to adapt more successfully. Those who lacked control expressed anger and frustration and focused on the damage done to their body. (2) Diagnosis. Most men …

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