Nursing Times

Book review:
Gay & Bisexual Men Living with Prostate Cancer,
edited by Jane M. Ussher, Janette Perz, and B.R. Simon Rosser

What was it like?

It is not often you read a book that makes you sit back and question what you do.

Divided into 3 sections, this book looks at the research around what we know about gay and bisexual men’s (GBM’s) experience of prostate cancer, the care and support available to GBM, and finally a number of very moving and powerful personal experiences. Combining literature reviews, research and case studies, this book provides an excellent and comprehensive account of the subject but also importantly identifies area for future work and research, particularly along the survivorship pathway.

The experience of prostate cancer and treatment effects in GBM is severely under researched, however a small but robust literature is emerging. This is not a quick and easy read – but it is a comprehensive and extensively referenced review of the evidence around GBM’s experience of prostate cancer, along with social, legal and systemic issues which contribute to this.

At times it was like having a light switched on: themes such as the use of language (using partner instead of wife doesn’t render a text or conversation nonheterosexist) and the importance of understanding sexual practices in order to be able to adequately counsel men on the potential adverse effects of each treatment option are blindingly obvious, and yet often missing. The well-presented research and studies supported the themes well and also illustrated the areas for further research.

What were the highlights?

It talks openly and at length about sex: about different sorts of sexual practices, the physical effects of various prostate cancer treatments on many aspects of sexual function and the unique issues and challenges that GBM may face as a result. However, it doesn’t just talk about sex in terms of the physical effects of cancer and treatment, but also about sex as a social practice and construct, about sex in relation to relationship and sense of self and masculinity, and even in terms of “gayness” itself. It challenges conventional views of coupledom and relationships and reminds us that unless we understand this, we cannot adequately prepare or support men through their journeys.

Strengths and weaknesses:

The book is a collection of excellently researched and referenced chapters by different contributors from various countries. As a result, some of the same literature and themes are discussed, reviewed or referenced by different contributors so there is some repetition. However, this is inevitable and actually the different authors bring new thoughts and analysis to the research which is thought provoking and really reflects the multi-faceted nature of the effects of living with and beyond prostate cancer.

Who should read it?

Everyone involved in the care of men with prostate cancer (or even cancer generally). Whilst GBM men experience the same physical changes as straight men as a result of treatment, there are a number of GBM-specific psychological and physical consequences that need to be considered by researchers and clinicians in partnership with men from diagnosis onwards.

However, this book goes beyond the clinical aspects (which in themselves are very important) by shining a light on the way our health care culture, beliefs and language affects how gay and bisexual men receive care, and encourages us to reflect on what we do individually and collectively to change this.

Reviewed by Louisa Fleure