BACKGROUND: Knowledge of experiences from prostate cancer is sparse in a longitudinal perspective. From a nursing perspective, results from combined qualitative and quantitative studies are lacking however would present the broadest knowledge base for best practice. Present descriptions of medical-physical symptoms such as urinary, bowel and sexual dysfunction from quantitative inquiries need be complemented with qualitative results. Such knowledge is essential in relation to treatment and communication with patients over the years and not only shortly after surgery.
METHODS: A longitudinal study was formatted to investigate general and specific health quality and sense of coherence quantitative alterations over three years. A general health quality module (EORTC QLC-C30) and a disease-specific module (EORTC PR-25) were applied for the longitudinal study together with the Orientation to life questionnaire (SOC), measuring a persons' sense of coherence. In order to strengthen reliability and compensate for low participation we used the Directed content analysis for interviewing and analysis. The method allows using findings from earlier research when interviewing along with detecting new areas. Twenty-one men were followed over three years and six of them, in the third year, accepted to be interviewed.
RESULTS: We found high quality of life ratings and extended the study with follow-up interviews in year three, to investigate whether questionnaire results were in line with interview findings. We found high life quality and functioning ratings that were in line with qualitative descriptions. Interview analysis showed retrieval of life as lived before, yet in a different way, the men never forgot the diagnosis event, had a unique illness history worth hearing, and had come to terms with most treatment-related shortcomings. Sense of coherence ratings were medium to high and confirmed stability over time in comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness after prostate cancer treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Over the years, the men's negative experiences from shifted into 'a good life' though in a different way than before. The interpretation is supported in the study by quantitative results showing a high degree of functioning. The men's sense of coherence seamed to support their handling of life three years after prostate cancer treatment.
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