Research projects

Mental health, resilience and sexual recovery among gay men with prostate cancer

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Proudly supported by The Movember Foundation.

Principal researchers

Professor Gary Dowsett1
Associate Professor Garrett Prestage2,3
Dr Duane Duncan1

Institution

1 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
2 HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program, University of New South Wales
3 The Kirby Institute

Funding

$299,903

Award type

beyondblue National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year

2015

Project brief

This study will be the first to-scale, in-depth account of gay men and prostate cancer anywhere in the world. It will provide a fine-grained account of their experiences, resilience and recovery of mental and sexual health to build an evidence base for future policy, program and resource development by medical and health services. The study has a number of partner agencies involved. It will provide important new evidence to understand the psychological implications of a disease that affects ~20,000 Australian men diagnosed each year, including more than 3,000 men who die from the disease annually. This is one of the most important medical issues facing those working in men’s health today.

This study investigates the experiences of Australian gay men and their partners following a diagnosis of, and treatment for, prostate cancer. A review of the medical and health literature reveals that little is known about gay men’s experiences or those of their partners. This study focuses on gay men’s mental and sexual health, particularly on experiences of depression and the sexuality side-effects following prostate cancer treatment.

This project uses a qualitative Interpretive Case Study methodology, involving 40 in-depth interviews with gay men with prostate cancer, and 20 partners of these men, half each in Sydney and Melbourne. It will utilise mainstream prostate cancer services and organisations, gay men’s health organisations and social networks, and the internet to recruit research participants. In particular, the study will provide a detailed account of these men’s experiences of prostate cancer and the steps taken to recover a sexual life and identity following treatment. The project will explore resilience as an aspect of mental health. Resilience can be defined as the mechanisms used and steps taken by people in the face of adverse events to sustain or rebuild self-efficacy personally, relationally and socially. The interview data will be supplemented by electronic diary-keeping (via confidential web posts) to provide further information about participants’ journeys toward the acceptance of loss or recovery of mental and sexual health.

This study is now recruiting participants