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Making sense of symptoms in men with prostate cancer: a longitudinal qualitative exploration


L Brunton, School of Nursing, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M139PL, UK


Within the UK, prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in men. Treatments for prostate cancer are associated with short-term and long-term side effects. Previous research in this area has mainly concentrated on symptom severity in relation to quality of life and has been largely quantitative in nature. The aim of this research study was to explore the perception and meaning of symptoms experienced by men with prostate cancer, from the patients' perspective. Ten men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer, undergoing treatment, were interviewed four times over 1 year. Interviews were analysed using an analytic framework underpinned by the common sense model. The men tended to minimize their symptom experience and cancer diagnoses over all four interviews. They were less likely to minimize symptoms if they believed their symptoms might be due to disease progression. Men appeared passive in their care and reluctant to ask questions; they did not appear to understand post-treatment follow-up procedures and this led to feelings of abandonment. This study is one of the only studies to explore how men perceive, appraise and manage symptoms related to prostate cancer over the first year after diagnosis. This may help health professionals when planning interventions and services for men with prostate cancer. Passivity in care appeared related to information deficits; patients need to be empowered to become active partners in their care.