Implementation of strategies that improve patient-provider communication was identified as a possible approach to reducing prostate cancer-related stigma in men with the disease, according to results of a small, qualitative study. These findings were published in the Oncology Nursing Forum.
The general association of cancer with body image detriments and death makes it a highly stigmatized condition. A diagnosis of lung cancer may be further stigmatized by its association with smoking, whereas the stigma experienced by patients with prostate cancer is due to potential adverse effects of treatment — such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction — resulting in increased attention focused on the specific impact of prostate cancer-related stigma on survivors of this disease.
In this semi-structured interview study, researchers evaluated the experiences and perceptions of 11 men with prostate cancer residing in 2 provinces in Canada regarding prostate cancer-related stigma and its impact on self-image, as well as relationships with other people, groups, and organizations. All 11 men completed prostate cancer treatment at least 6 months prior and reported experiencing prostate cancer-specific stigma.
An analysis of the interview transcripts revealed 3 themes:
- Patients perceive themselves as less masculine, resulting in an internalization of stigma that affects self-image and relationships with others.
- Humor, avoidance/denial, and talking about their cancer diagnosis, including offering support to others with the condition, are coping strategies used by men with prostate cancer.
- Approaches that improve communication between patients and providers are needed.
The men in this study reported a lack of support from their physicians, not enough time to discuss their condition or treatment options, and a need for additional support from their healthcare team. They described prostate cancer as “an emasculating journey.”
“Nurses, particularly oncology nurses, have the necessary training to provide psychosocial support and counseling to patients experiencing stigma,” the researchers noted. Nurse navigators are also able to provide emotional support and information regarding the disease and treatment options throughout the healthcare journey.
“Research should examine the role of oncology nursing across the cancer care continuum to determine the effect these providers can have on stigmatization and related psychosocial outcomes among individuals with cancer,” the researchers concluded.