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Psychosexual experiences of men following radiotherapy for prostate cancer in Johannesburg, South Africa

Matheko N. Phahlamohlaka, Sibusiso Mdletshe, Heather Lawrence


Background: Radiation-induced erectile dysfunction (RiED) often occurs among patients diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa) who undergo radiation treatment. However, sexual health care (SHC) is not a common practice in radiation oncology departments worldwide. Sexual health care in this context refers to a practice of integrating discussions around sexual well-being into the routine follow-up appointments of PCa patients to achieve better patientcentred care. Previous research identified unmet patient needs and mismatched expectations between patients and health care providers regarding SHC, but no such studies have been conducted in a South African setting.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore and describe the psychosexual experiences of men following radiotherapy for PCa treated in Johannesburg.

Setting: A qualitative phenomenology design with an interpretive research paradigm was employed, which allowed the study objectives to be achieved. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants from a population of 305 patients. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed in a step-by-step approach.

Method: Data saturation was reached after completing semi-structured individual interviews (n = 9).

Results: Feedback received from the participants was classified into three main themes: (1) their sexual experiences after PCa diagnosis, (2) the impact of losing sexual function on their relationships and (3) the lack of information from medical oncology staff regarding sexual health. Diverse psychosexual experiences and emotional reactions associated with erectile dysfunction before and after radiation therapy were identified.

Conclusion: The loss of sexual function had a detrimental impact on the men’s quality of life, psychological well-being and intimate relationships. Participants shared unsatisfactory feelings about inconsistent and unmet SHC expectations in the radiation oncology clinic.
AJOL African Journals Online