"Health wise I am feeling great. I am a big supporter of trials - it allows new treatments and drugs to be brought in.”
A study looking at support for couples affected by prostate cancer
This study tested a new way of supporting couples who were affected by prostate cancer and the side effects of prostate cancer surgery.
More about this trial
Surgery is often used to treat prostate cancer. Like all treatments surgery has side effects. These can include:
- decreased quality of life
- changes in the quality of your relationship with your partner
- sexual problems such as difficulty getting an erection
Prostate cancer and treatment side effects might also affect your partner.
We know from research that couples feel they don’t have enough support to cope with these effects. And they would be keen to have support if it was offered.
Researchers in this study tested a new way of supporting couples.
They asked couples to join a pilot study to see how well the support worked. And to see if it would be possible to offer this support to more people.
Half the couples had 6 support sessions with a practitioner who specialised in couple support. And the other half had standard care from their regular prostate cancer team.
The researchers thought that couples who had specialist support would have a better quality of life and a stronger relationship.
As well as testing this support in a small group of people the team worked out the overall cost of providing this support. This included any benefit it had on reducing the need for other healthcare services.
Summary of results
The study team found that this type of support was possible and acceptable to the men and their partners.
43 couples took part in this pilot study. It was a randomised study. The couples were put into 1 of 2 groups by a computer. Neither they or their doctor could choose which group they were in.
The 2 groups were couples who:
- saw the specialist practitioner for couple support
- had the usual support from their medical team
The team asked all men to fill in a questionnaire to find if they were suitable to take part in the study. Those who were suitable then did further questionnaires when:
- they agreed to take part in the study
- 4 months
- 10 months
The questions asked about:
- their prostate cancer
- any side effects from treatment
- how these side effects have affected their relationship with their partner particularly their sexual intimacy
- more generally about their relationship with their partner
- their mental health especially about feelings of anxiety and depression
- personal details such as age
- their use of health care services
The team found that the specialist couple support did significantly help the couples with their sexual relationships immediately after starting the support. But this wasn’t maintained over a long period of time.
Feasibility and acceptability
The team interviewed the couples to find what they thought about the specialist support.
They said the support was possible and acceptable.
Although some couples said they had difficulties working their way through attitudes and feelings about sexuality. Most were pleased to be able to access the increased support after surgery.
Cost of support
The team estimated the cost of doing the specialist support was about £468 for each couple.
The study team said that these results suggest that the specialist support was possible and acceptable for couples affected by prostate cancer. Before they can recommend it to be part of care a large clinical trial needs to be done to find:
- how well the specialist couple support works
- what the actual cost is of doing this as a routine part of care
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Liz Forbat
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Prostate Cancer UK
Scottish Mental Health Research Network
University of Stirling