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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • gender;
  • survivorship;
  • colorectal

Abstract

Objectives: Men have higher incidence and mortality rates for nearly all cancers. They are less likely than women to utilise cancer information services and other social support services. The aim of this study was to explore and compare the experience and coping behaviour of men and women after treatment for colorectal cancer (CRC).

Methods: A longitudinal qualitative study was conducted involving 38 individuals (24 men and 14 women) with CRC. Data were generated using semi-structured interviews at four time points over an 18-month period, post-diagnosis. Interviews focused on participant's experience of CRC and on how gender affected their coping. This paper reports the findings of interviews 3 and 4 which examined the participant's experience after chemotherapy.

Results: Three themes emerged from the interviews (‘new normal’, living with uncertainty and support needs). Many men and women reacted similarly; however, there was some variation evident between and within sexes. The main difference was with regard to the long-term physical side effects of the illness. Many women admitted to still experiencing side effects, whereas many men indicated that they had no problems. These men engaged in practices that aligned with their gender identity and view of masculinity. It must be noted that some men and women were still experiencing an impact.

Conclusions: Recovery from the physical and psychological effects of CRC does not occur simultaneously. Healthcare professionals should be aware that not all men (or women) conform to the social stereotypes of masculinity (or femininity). Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.