Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the impact of prostate cancer and its treatment on men's sexuality and intimate relationships from the perspective of the men's lived experiences.
Description of the study: Ten men diagnosed with prostate cancer were interviewed. Verbal transcripts were analyzed using an interpretive phenomenological approach based on Heidegger's philosophy.
Results: “Altered sexual patterns” was identified as the major theme, which in turn was influenced by five minor themes: choice of consequences; age affecting sexual life; hope of improvement; acceptance of altered sexual life; and image of manliness. Choice of consequences showed that survival is paramount, as interviewees often felt that they were choosing between death or sexual dysfunction. Age affecting sexual life identified sexual dysfunction as caused by natural effects of aging. Hope of improvement showed that several men hoped for improvement in sexual function, although it had been years since their treatment. Acceptance of altered sexual life illustrated that the men often felt the need to accept their altered sex life, with their wives playing an important role in this acceptance. Finally, the theme image of manliness showed the men's attempts to acknowledge and cope with the changes in their self-image.
Clinical implications: It is important that healthcare professionals adopt a comprehensive approach in communicating information about prostate cancer treatment choices and potential side effects that includes the patient and his partner. Communication and counselling about treatment options, potential side effects, and potential strategies to manage side effects should be offered both at the time of diagnosis and at post-treatment follow-up.