Background: Changes to sexuality are a primary concern amongst the growing number of cancer survivors, leading to psychological distress and impacting long-term quality of life. Effective dyadic sexual communication has been found to be critical in improving sexual satisfaction post-treatment. However, research suggests that many men struggle to disclose about their sexual concerns and preferences with their partner.
Aim: This study aimed to qualitatively explore the common barriers and facilitators to sexual communication in male cancer survivors (MCSs) and to apply these findings to the tailoring of a psychosexual intervention, Rekindle, that is acceptable to these consumers.
Methods: Seventeen MCSs with a variety of cancer types, aged between 24-77 participated in semi-structured telephone interviews, which were coded in line with Grounded Theory methodology.
Results: The substantive theory that emerged found that those MCSs with a low quality of sexual communication experienced a diminished perceived masculinity following cancer-related sexual dysfunction. These feelings of inadequacy were compounded by inadequate partner support. Contrastingly, participants reporting effective sexual communication expressed the importance of a stable self-esteem and flexible partner support. All participants reported the benefits of a private, online resource like Rekindle and stated that providing a normalising experience coupled with skills-based content was the best way to retain MCSs in the intervention.
Conclusions: This study challenges the notion that most men struggle with intimate dyadic communication in suggesting that adequate partner support and a stable sense of self can mitigate MCSs’ communicative behaviour, subsequently bolstering self-esteem. Recommendations are proposed for future research and clinical intervention, stressing the importance of a broader exploration into the diverse experiences of MCSs to enhance the efficacy of psychosexual interventions like Rekindle, and to reduce intervention attrition rates in this critical demographic.