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Research Case studies

Experiences of Penile Cancer

Dr Peter Branney has a background in social psychology, exploring contemporary issues around health, particularly related to urological conditions. He focuses mainly on first-person accounts, such as interviews.

In his current role, he teaches across a number of psychology modules, specialising in social psychology and qualitative research methods.

In 2012, Peter, alongside Professor Alan White and Karl Witty at Leeds Beckett in conjunction with Aberystwyth University and the University of Oxford, led the first national study of patients’ experiences of penile cancer. The research team, based at our University’s Centre for Men’s Health, conducted extensive interviews with men about their experiences which were used by leading health website, Healthtalkonline.

The real life accounts, all from people with direct experience of the disease, cover a range of themes from recognising signs and symptoms, the types of surgery, recovery and sex and relationships following surgery.

Speaking about the study, Dr Branney commented: "A lot of men have never heard of penile cancer and some are shocked to discover that cancer can develop on the penis. The UK is world leading in the treatment of penile cancer, yet our research shows the symptoms are regularly mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease, which delays treatment. If we talk about penile cancer more widely, then men might be diagnosed faster and be better equipped to cope with both the physical and emotional impact of the condition.

"One of the main findings from the research was that although you'd think no-one would want to mention penile cancer, the men who were diagnosed felt it was easier to cope with when it was spoken about. Being open and honest and maintaining a sense of humour despite the difficulties enabled other people to offer help and reduce embarrassment. Particularly for those men who need reconstructive surgery, sharing the situation with family and friends boosted confidence and self-esteem and this was greatly valued in the overall recovery process."

In February 2013, to mark World Cancer Day, the Centre for Men’s Health team exhibiting artwork inspired by patients’ experiences of penile cancer at the Rose Bowl and a host of creative thinkers, including academics, an artist, a writer and a nurse each gave a talk inspired by the exhibition.

The study was funded by the Research for Patient Benefit Programme (RfPB) of the UK National Institute for Health Research (NiHR).

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