A team of University of Southern Queensland (USQ) researchers is looking into how men with localised prostate cancer and their loved ones find hope during their ordeal.
The research team includes Dr Laurie Lepherd (Centre for Health Sciences Research) and Dr Coralie Graham (School of Health, Nursing and Midwifery).
Dr Lepherd said prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men worldwide and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed overall.
'While the rate of prostate cancer in the population is increasing, the mortality rate is decreasing - men will live longer and may need greater access to the development and use of their coping strategies," Dr Lepherd said.
'While the journey with prostate cancer can be very difficult for men, it can also be difficult for their partners.
'Two aspects of life that can assist men and women in these difficult times are lift (the way they are able to rise above their day-to-day troubles) and hope (the quality that provides expectation of comfort for them)."
Dr Lepherd said the study was designed to answer a number of questions about how men and their families cope during their prostate cancer journey.
'We want to hear the stories (by telephone) of men who have had or currently have localised prostate cancer, and partners of men in these circumstances," he said.
'Did they find lift and hope? What lifts them above the illness? Is it a connection they have with other people? Is it a religious belief? Is it a connection with the land? Is it a sense of purpose?
'We would particularly welcome potential participants from rural and remote areas of Australia.
'Once completed, the (anonymous) results will be made available so other men and women in similar circumstances, carers and health professionals have a greater understanding of the way people can be given even more support."
Question: Can you talk us through the Prostate Cancer research?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: The research is designed to find out how men and their women partners find lift and hope during their prostate cancer journeys. Either Dr Coralie Graham, my associate researcher, or I will interview by telephone about 10 men with localised prostate cancer, 10 women who are partners of such men, and 10 couples, so they can share their stories. We will then publish them as a book, and also prepare journal articles. Our aim is to provide information for other men and women who are affected by this cancer so they may benefit from the experiences of people in a similar situation. We will also write scholarly papers for healthcare professionals who have contact with people in these circumstances so they are able to understand and help them more effectively.
Question: What do you hope to learn from this research?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: Anyone with cancer knows that there can be very stressful times during a cancer journey. Many people try to lift themselves above their everyday stressful experiences through being positive. Through our research we hope to find some of the specific things that give lift and hope to the men and women affected by prostate cancer.
Question: How will you determine how men and their families find hope during their diagnoses and treatment?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: The research will involve inviting men, women and couples to share their stories about their experiences. A telephone interview will be arranged that will encourage them to tell their story in their own words. The question asked will be:
Many people experience lift and hope during their prostate cancer related journey. Would you like to tell me about your experience with prostate cancer and, in particular, the way you feel lifted, and have experienced hope, during your own journey?'
After this, participants will tell share their experiences and the interviewer will ask follow up questions based on what the participant says if necessary.
Question: Why did you choose to research Prostate Cancer families for this study?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: In my previous research I examined how men with advanced prostate cancer used their spirituality to cope with their illness. Spirituality is about a person's inner being that has a number of dimensions that include lift and hope. I interviewed nine men and found during this study that the women partners of the men often experienced considerable difficulties in their relationship with their male partner. We are hoping to explore the relationship to try to understand more fully how the men and women cope with the situations during their journey and, in particular, what the positive aspects of their lives are.
Question: How does Prostate Cancer affect a patient's partner?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: Studies have shown that sometimes, women become more stressed than the men at various stages of their journey. This can be because they do not know how their partner is feeling because, often, the men do not want to talk about it. There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes a man is in denial – he doesn't want to speak about the illness or his treatment. Another reason can be that because the illness can affect his sexual function, he can feel embarrassed about his lack of -manliness' and cannot talk about it. This can be extremely frustrating for his partner who can feel -shut out' of his life.
Question: What are some of the questions you hope to answer regarding how men and their families cope during the Prostate Cancer journey?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: One of the most important questions we would like to answer is how men and women communicate with each other, and with other people, about the positives and negatives of their lives during the man's illness. Talking through issues is vital in trying to share more understanding and foster better relationships. It is hoped that this research will enable more information to be available on how men and women find and use the positives and eventually make their burden less heavy to carry.
Question: How can Australians help with this research?
Dr Laurie Lepherd: We are looking for volunteers to participate by telling their stories in a telephone conversation. This means that participants can come from any part of Australia. The stories will be recorded and then transcribed into text, after which they will be returned to each participant to make sure they are satisfied with what they have said. Individuals participating will have their identity protected through the use of fictitious names and places. We are looking for 10 men, 10 women and 10 couple to participate.
Potential participants are invited to express their interest by calling Laurie Lepherd – 07 4687 5820 and leaving a message.
Interview by Brooke Hunter