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Ulster University research to maximise sexual wellbeing for men and their partners after a prostate cancer diagnosis

Ulster University's Professor Eilís McCaughan

World-leading researchers at Ulster University are set to lead a £430,000 pioneering international research programme in the UK, the US and Canada, which aims to improve the sexual health of men, and their partners, after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men and treatments can lead to a number of physical and emotional challenges. In Northern Ireland there are over 8,000 men living with and after prostate cancer and there are over 330,000 men living with the disease UK wide. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those who have had treatment for prostate cancer report experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Ulster University’s new three year study will see the creation of three new flexible support packages designed to address individual needs and empower men and their partners to manage their sexual health challenges prior to and after treatment.

The resources include a web-based sexual recovery programme for men and their partners, an engagement tool to ensure quality communication between health professionals and men and partners, and an online sexual health training programme for health professionals caring for men living with prostate cancer.

Ulster University’s research is supported with a £400,000 grant from the TrueNTH global initiative led by the Movember Foundation in collaboration with Prostate Cancer UK. A further £30,000 has also been awarded from the HSC Public Health Agency to further support the study.

The research will be led by Professor Eilís McCaughan at Ulster University’s Institute of Nursing and Health Research alongside colleagues from the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital; Ninewells Hospital, Dundee; University of Surrey; University of Southampton; University of Michigan; and University of Toronto.

Ulster University’s Professor Eilís McCaughan said: “Sexual dysfunction experienced by men after prostate cancer treatment can have a devastating effect on them as individuals and on their relationships.

“Men are often reluctant to discuss personal sexual issues and there is also evidence that health professionals have limited time available to provide necessary levels of care and support for men and their partners.

“The results of this new research will provide much needed guidance and help restore sexual health to a level of satisfaction for both the man and his partner.

“The new resources we develop will provide them both with crucial need-to-know information on the possible consequences of the different forms of treatment and where to seek information and support to self-manage their condition.”

Dr Sarah Cant, Director of TrueNTH and Outcomes at Prostate Cancer UK said: “When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer treatment, early support and treatment is vital. This programme is a tremendous step towards ensuring that no man who has been treated for prostate cancer is left to deal with erectile dysfunction alone. We look forward to the results of the project and hope it will lead to improved support and experiences for all men.”

Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programs of the Movember Foundation said: “The Movember Foundation is committed to improving the lives of men with prostate cancer through the creation of our TrueNTH program. TrueNTH is a nautical term; it’s a compass point, it’s an idea that if we can understand the individual patients’ needs when they are first diagnosed, we can help them navigate towards the ultimate outcome they want to see. The funding of this programme would not be possible without the continued support from our Movember community, to whom we’re extremely grateful for their efforts.”