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Keywords:

  • prostate cancer;
  • sexual function;
  • depression;
  • psychological distress;
  • marital quality

OBJECTIVES

To examine the levels of sexual, psychological and dyadic functioning of the prostate cancer ‘couple’ (as studies have shown that spouses/partners play an integral role in the patient's adjustment to prostate cancer treatment), to encourage the creation of innovative psychosexual interventions to be used in the outpatient setting, and to offer insights into a novel area of prostate cancer research.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

In all, 103 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, and their partners, were assessed in an academic outpatient setting using instruments measuring sexual function, depressed mood, psychological distress and dyadic adjustment.

RESULTS

The partners’ mean scores on sexual function questions were 55.75, significantly higher than those of the patients (51.7, P = 0.018), showing that partners perceived their sexual performance at a better level. Partners’ mean scores on the depression and distress measures were also significantly higher. On those items that monitored the accuracy of the patients’ perceptions of their sexual function, partners rated the patients significantly lower in ability to gain erections (patient/partner means 2.67/4.52; P < 0.001) and to perform sexually (patient/partner means 1.38/4.68; P < 0.001) than they rated themselves.

CONCLUSIONS

Information from this study could be useful in constructing interventions that allow the physician and the prostate cancer ‘couple’ to reflect on issues of sexual function and psychological distress that might once have been considered taboo. The results characterize the disparities between patients with prostate cancer and their partners on self-reported questionnaires, and underscore how important it is to hear the voice of the ‘couple’.