Coping and adjustment in men with prostate cancer: a systematic review of qualitative studies

J Cancer Surviv. 2018 Apr;12(2):155-168. doi: 10.1007/s11764-017-0654-8. Epub 2017 Oct 23.


Purpose: Prostate cancer (PCa) is one of the most common forms of cancer amongst males. Men's coping responses are an important determinant of functioning and adjustment to this disease. Previous qualitative research exists in this area, but the current review sought to systematically review and summarise these studies.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify studies concerned with men's coping strategies in their attempts to live with PCa. A search of relevant electronic databases was conducted to identify studies that met inclusion criteria for this review. Methodological quality assessment was also undertaken for each included study.

Results: One hundred twenty-one publications were identified for initial screening, and 18 studies were included in the review. A total of five coping strategy categories or 'meta-themes' were identified across included studies. These categories were labelled 'avoidance, minimisation, and withdrawal', 'directing cognition and attention', 'reframing masculinity and seeking support', 'retain pre-illness identity and lifestyle', and 'symptom/side-effect management'.

Conclusions: A range of coping strategies were reported by men with PCa. Some of these strategies appear to be partially influenced by gender roles and masculinities. Coping meta-themes reported in this review have also been found in other research on men's coping. Strategies relating to flexible interpretation of gender roles/masculinities may be a particularly relevant category of coping responses due to the hypothesised beneficial impact of flexibility on psychological well-being.

Implications for cancer survivors: PCa survivors utilise a range of coping strategies, and the types of strategies used may have implications for men's well-being. The ability to be flexible in both coping responses used, and in the view of oneself as a man may be particularly important skills in meeting the challenges associated with this disease.

Keywords: Adjustment; Coping; Prostate cancer; Systematic review; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masculinity
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Adjustment*