Looking past the obvious: Experiences of altered masculinity in penile cancer

K. Bullen, Stephen Edwards, Victoria Marke, Sarah Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives: Penile cancer, although statistically rare in Western countries (1:100 000 per year), results in considerable physical and psychological morbidity. The treatment of choice for penile cancer is either partial or total amputation of the penis. Metastatic spread into the surrounding lymphatic system may require additional surgery. To date, little is known of the lived experiences of men with penile cancer regarding the impact of the disease and its treatment on dimensions of masculinity.

Methods: A small-scale qualitative study using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). IPA aims at exploring the experience of life events and the meaning and implications for the person living through them. A purposive sample of men with penile cancer who were within a minimum of 18 months post-surgery were recruited via a specialist urology clinic (n = 9). Participants were interviewed by a male researcher using a pre-agreed semi-structured interview schedule; interviews were audio recorded for transcription with detailed analyses of main and sub-themes conducted independently by three researchers. To maintain analytical rigour, constant comparisons of main and sub-themes were made between the individual transcripts and across the emergent themes within the research group.

Results: Central themes were (1) grappling with reality; (2) learning to cope and (3) changes to self.

Conclusions: That men should have an altered sense of masculine identity following penile cancer surgery is not unexpected. However, the ways in which altered masculinity manifested itself were both subtle and insidious. The results have implications for clinical practice and demonstrated the need for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-940
Number of pages8
Issue number9
Early online date27 Oct 2009
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • cancer
  • oncology
  • penis
  • masculinity
  • qualitative


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