Masculinities, humour and care for penile cancer: A qualitative study

Peter Branney, Karl Witty, Debbie Braybrook, Kate Bullen, Alan White, Ian Eardley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


To explore how men with penile cancer construct humour in relation to their diagnosis and treatment.

Functionalist, relief and incongruity theories attempt to account for humour, but there is a dearth of empirical evidence in nursing care. This is particularly so in relation to a condition like penile cancer where some nurses think that humour in their interactions with patients would be inappropriate.

The study employed a participative, mixed-qualitative-methods design.

Focus groups and patient-conducted interviews were both used during a one-day ‘pilot workshop’ in March 2011. The data were initially analysed using framework analysis. This paper explores the theme of humour in depth.

Humour helped participants make light of their condition, which meant that they could laugh about the consequences of treatment (‘laughing about urination’) and build rapport with health professionals (‘humour with health professionals’). Nevertheless, the use of humour was less important than the treatment of their cancer (‘humour discounted’) and there was a fear that they would be subject to ridicule because of their condition (‘fear of ridicule’).

The findings suggest a combination of functionalist, relief and incongruity theories of humour; the emotions these men experience are contained (functionalist) and released (relief) through humorous interaction, and the potential for comedy lies in an incongruity between what is expected socially and the experiences of these men, for example, around expectations that men use urinals in public toilets. Nurses should continue to use humour to build rapport with patients, should they judge this to be appropriate, although they may want to avoid jokes about sexual and urinary functioning until after treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2051-2060
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number9
Early online date25 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2014


  • masculinities
  • nursing
  • participative
  • patient involvement
  • penile cancer
  • penis
  • qualitative methods


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