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Exploring the role of the partner in couples' sexual recovery after surgery for prostate cancer.

Wittmann D, Carolan M, Given B, Skolarus TA, An L, Palapattu G, Montie JE. Exploring the role of the partner in couples' sexual recovery after surgery for prostate cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. 2014 Sep 1; 22(9):2509-15.

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BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer survivors' post-surgery sexual problems are well documented and long lasting. Partners' distress in this context leads to psychological morbidity which is poorly understood. Given the prevalence of prostate cancer diagnoses in older men, partners' distress represents a public health concern. This study elucidates an important aspect of partners' distress which has hitherto been undocumented. It can lead to further research and health-care provisions that will support couples in prostate cancer survivorship towards improved mental health and health outcomes. PURPOSE: Partner sexual function has been viewed as a factor in men's erectile function recovery after prostatectomy for prostate cancer. However, patients' and partners' perceptions on the role of the partner in couples' sexual recovery has not been studied. We wanted to understand those perceptions and to see whether their perceptions were congruent. METHODS: Men and partners were recruited from a previous study and interviewed separately about the role of the partner. Interview transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory with the help of NVivo software. RESULTS: Ten men and nine partners participated; most were more than 1 year past surgery. Men were 62, and partners were 58 years old on average. Nine men had erectile dysfunction. Six female partners were post-menopausal, and a participating male partner had post-prostatectomy erectile dysfunction. Men and partners agreed that partners provide emotional and logistical support. Both perceived the partner's own sexual interest, not function, as critical to the couple's sexual recovery. Some men felt pressured by partners' initiative, feeling insecure about sexual performance. Men were unaware of partners' sexual needs or needs for support. Partners expressed those needs but were unsure of what kind of support they needed. CONCLUSION: Partners' sexual and support needs during couples' sexual recovery after prostatectomy should be acknowledged and addressed as a legitimate aspect of research and care for men recovering from prostatectomy.

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