Research Theme: Supportive and Palliative Care
Research Title: An Exploration of Men’s Experiences of Favourable-Risk Prostate Cancer
Research Interests: Healthcare research; applied psychology; health psychology; psycho-social oncology; patient reported outcomes
Supervisors: Dr Gillian Prue, Prof Sam Porter, Prof Joe O’Sullivan
I started off studying engineering in Southern Regional College, Newry Campus (2009-2011) but I had always been interested in understanding behaviour and improving wellbeing, so I applied and subsequently got accepted to BSc (Hons) Psychology in Queen’s University Belfast. I graduated in July 2014 with a First Class Honours Degree, and an award for best thesis. I started my PhD in September of the same year.
The reason I chose this PhD topic was due to the focus on understanding (and hopefully as a result, improving) physical and psychological wellbeing in men with prostate cancer. From a methodological perspective, I was interested in the integration of both qualitative and quantitative methods.
BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in men worldwide. Routine screening has resulted in a greater number of men being diagnosed with lower risk prostate cancer. Active Surveillance (AS) allows these men to postpone or avoid the adverse side-effects associated with curative treatment until the disease progresses, although this uncertainty can create an additional emotional burden.
AIMS: To determine the frequency and temporal variability in anxiety, depression, uncertainty and physical symptoms in men with favourable-risk PCa; to identify personality or socio-demographic characteristics that may predict psychological adjustment; and, to explore, in depth, the personal experiences of men undergoing AS.
METHODS: A mixed-methods sequential explanatory design consisting of two phases: quantitative followed by qualitative. Ninety men with favourable-risk PCa will be assessed immediately post-diagnosis and followed quarterly for 12 months, ninety matched non-cancer men will be followed simultaneously. For Phase 2 10-15 AS patients will participate in qualitative interviews.
RESULTS: Psychological and physical symptoms will be assessed to determine their prevalence and severity over time. Personality and socio-demographic factors will be explored to identify predictors of psychological adjustment. Qualitative interviews will facilitate further exploration of quantitative results and obtain deeper understanding of participants’ personal interpretations of their illness and experiences of AS.
To our knowledge, this is the first mixed-methods study to utilise early baseline measures and include a non-cancer comparison group to most accurately capture the experience of AS. We hope the study will allow health care professionals to identify those men who may require additional support throughout their time on AS therefore improving patient care and acceptance of this management option.
It’s hard to beat the feeling of ticking off a full to-do list even though item no.1 is usually ‘Write to-do list’. If I get some time with my son in the evening (that isn’t just dinner, homework, bed) that’s the closest to perfect I can hope for.
BSc Nursing – Evidence Based Nursing
Research Assistant – If I were Jack Feasibility Trial (Sept 2014-Sept 2015)
Student member School Research Ethics Committee
I’m Mammying a very strong minded, articulate and independent little 5 year old boy and thinking about all the PhDing I should be doing!
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