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Funded PhD Opportunity

Developing and evaluating a sexual wellbeing resource for people living with head and neck cancer

Subject: Nursing and Health


The treatment of most head and neck cancer leaves the patient with decreased function and physical deformity in the head and neck, especially the mouth. These side effects can result in dripping of saliva, odour, reduced physical mobility (speech and movement) which impacts on the ability to be both sexual and intimate. This has resulted in sexual dysfunction issues causing such outcomes as the relationship breakdown and loss in confidence. This is concerning as oral cancer rates have increased by 68% in the past 20 years. Oropharyngeal cancer is now being diagnosed in patients aged 20 upwards, in the main due to oncogenic HPV virus. Problems with intimacy and sexual dysfunction in patients with cancer of the head and neck are often not recognised and generally go untreated. There are some services to support intimacy issues for people with gynaecological, breast or prostate cancer but limited support available for head and neck cancer patients.

METHODS: The aim of this study is to develop and evaluate a resource for patients with head and neck cancer to promote their sexual wellbeing. Through a ‘person based approach’ a systematic literature review, qualitative interviews and the input of an expert group, a tailored based intervention will be developed. Following iterative testing (through think aloud interviews with users), formal evaluation of the will take place. This evaluation will include both qualitative and quantitative methods.

INHR FIT:  This study is bridging two ongoing programmes of research currently being led at Ulster University, INHR, 1) maximising sexual wellbeing post prostate cancer for men and partners and 2) providing psychosocial support for head and neck cancer patients post treatment.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Ulster University has very enhanced independent  learning.  I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get  new motivation.  I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.

Professor Stenver Lin - PhD Radiology

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I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS.  I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time.  Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.

Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of Nursing

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
20th or 21st March 2018 TBC

Contact supervisor

Professor Eilis McCaughan

Other supervisors


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