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In the Middle and on the Sideline: The Experience of Spouses of Men With Prostate Cancer

Ervik, Bente MA in Ed, RNT; Nordøy, Tone MD, PhD; Asplund, Kenneth PhD, RNT

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e31824fe1ef

Background: Spouses play an important role in how well patients with prostate cancer manage their illness. Whereas earlier studies mostly included both patients and spouses, this study focuses on the spouses’ experiences during the course of the illness.

Objective: The objective of this study was to explore how the daily life of female spouses is affected by their husband’s prostate cancer.

Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 9 spouses of men receiving potential curative treatment for prostate cancer.

Results: Prostate cancer in men had significant impact on spouses’ everyday life. The results showed that spouses strived to achieve a balance between focusing on their own needs and meeting their husbands’ needs along the course of the illness. Four themes emerged: strong and optimistic versus vulnerable and overstrained, maintaining the partner’s sense of manhood, being on the sideline, and the need for relationships outside the immediate family.

Conclusion: Being a spouse to a man with prostate cancer is emotionally and practically demanding. There is a danger of the spouses suppressing their own needs in the process of supporting their husbands. Those spouses living in the situation over a period of years expressed fatigue and a shift in focus from their husbands’ needs to their own needs for support.

Implications for Practice: Healthcare providers should provide support for spouses during the course of the illness, encourage spouses to participate in seminars for couples living with prostate cancer, and be aware of the potential for situational fatigue in spouses many years after the diagnosis.

Author Affiliations: Department of Health and Care Sciences (Mrs Ervik and Dr Asplund) and Department of Clinical Medicine (Dr Nordøy), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, Norway; Department of Oncology, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø (Mrs Ervik and Dr Nordøy); and Department of Health Science, Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall (Dr Asplund).

This study was funded by University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway. Some research funding (for traveling and language editing) was also received from (Helse Nord) the Regional Health Authority of Northern Norway, 8038 Bodø.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Bente Ervik, MA in Ed, RNT, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Health and Care Sciences, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway (;

Accepted for publication February 11, 2012.

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins