Men with prostate cancer over the first year of illness: their experiences as biographical disruption

Sandi Cayless (Lead / Corresponding author), Liz Forbat, Nicola Illingworth, Gill Hubbard, Nora Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Goals This paper is one of five interrelated papers about cancer, drawn from a larger study exploring the experiences of 66 people diagnosed with cancer. Findings are reported separately because the way in which people experience cancer can vary by cancer type. Here, we determine the utility of liminality and biographical disruption as explanatory theories in relation to men's experiences of prostate cancer. We situate and explore notions of liminality and disruption in relation to self, identity and context to inform debate about the provision of supportive care and highlight the contribution this study makes to the understandings of men's health.
Materials and methods This is a qualitative interview study of 66 people diagnosed with cancer. The study included five cancer types: gynaecological, prostate, lung, breast and colorectal. This paper illustrates the experiences of ten men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Three serial interviews were conducted at (1) diagnosis, (2) treatment and (3) follow-up. Drawing on the constant comparative method (Glaser and Strauss 1967), a descriptive and thematic approach to data analysis was adopted. This descriptive analysis evidenced that cancer caused disruption to people's lives. In order to move beyond this level of description, begin to explain this and develop theoretical insight, we drew on concepts of biographical disruption (Bury, Sociol Health Illn 4(2):167–182, 1982; Bury, Sociol Health Illn 13(4):451–468, 1991; Bury, Sociol Health Illn 23(3):263–285, 2001) and liminality (Navon and Morag, Soc Sci Med 58(11):2337–2347, 2004).
Main results Notions of biography and identity weave their way through men's accounts of prostate cancer. Physical side effects and reconstructed futures each form key parts of men's narratives.
Conclusions Our findings add to existing knowledge of supportive care needs for men living with prostate cancer. We suggest that studies exploring supportive care need to remain mindful of the disruption that cancer causes both during and after treatment, the complexity of such experience and respective demands on supportive care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number1
Early online date7 Apr 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • Prostate cancer
  • Biographical disruption
  • Identity
  • Liminality
  • Survivorship


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