Research projects

Development and evaluation of an online psychological intervention for partners of men with prostate cancer

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Proudly supported by The Movember Foundation.

Principal researcher

Dr Addie Wootten1
Dr Heather Siddons2
Dr Jo Abbott3
Professor Britt Klein3
Associate Professor David Austin3
Professor Anthony Costello4
Associate Professor Declan Murphy5


1 Melbourne Health and Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre Epworth
2 Royal Melbourne Hospital
3 Swinburne University of Technology
4 Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre Epworth and Royal Melbourne Hospital
5 Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre Epworth, Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre


$150,000 – This project is funded through a donation from the Movember Foundation

Award type

National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year


Project brief

Overview of the research

The objective of this study was to firstly establish the psychosocial support needs of partners of men with prostate cancer and to use this information to develop an internet based support program for these partners which aims to:

  1. Improve the mental health status of partners of men with prostate cancer
  2. Improve the relationship between the partner and the man with prostate cancer including their communication techniques, intimacy and sexual relationship.

The study further aimed to assess the useability and acceptability of the online psychological support program by way of pilot testing and user feedback.

Executive summary

A series of focus groups have been conducted to ascertain the support needs of partners of men with prostate cancer. The results of these focus groups have been used to develop the online psychological intervention for partners of men with prostate cancer.

A summary of the main outcomes are below:

  • The data collected from the focus groups with partners of men with prostate cancer indicated that:
    • Emotional reactions were heavily influenced by the coping responses employed by the couple and three styles of responses emerged which reflected how they coped and the impact the coping they adopted had on their relationship.
    • The way in which the man coped with their prostate cancer experience had a significant and direct impact on the psychological status of the partner.
    • There were different approaches to the level of involvement partners had in the patient’s treatment decision making and treatment process and this appeared to impact on marital satisfaction and psychological functioning.
    • Navigating sexual intimacy following prostate cancer treatment was difficult for most partners and heavily influenced by the couples ability to communicate about this topic.
    • Partners were aware of the impact that prostate cancer can have on a man’s sense of identity and masculinity and this was an issue that partners felt unprepared to manage.
    • Partners took on the responsibility of maintaining the practical management of the family, communicating with others about the patient’s health status and supporting other family members and commonly neglected to implement self-care strategies.
  • The findings of the focus groups were utilised to develop the online psychological intervention which has undergone pilot testing.
  • This online psychological intervention for partners of men with prostate cancer is the first program to specifically target partners utilising a self-directed online model of delivery.
  • Pilot testing data indicates that the program is user friendly and engaging. All participants reported that this intervention provides much needed information and support.
  • Pilot data indicates that participant’s levels of self-reported anxiety, depression and relationship satisfaction showed a trend towards improvement and a statistically significant improvement in mental wellbeing was found from pre- to post-intervention assessments.
  • A number of minor enhancements are recommended as a result of this pilot and we hope to be able to use the pilot data for an NHMRC grant application for a randomised controlled trial early next year.

Download the final report

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