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Self‐directed learning and prostate cancer: a thematic analysis of the experiences of twelve patients

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Although self‐directed learning is a common response for many of the 232,090 US men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, very little is known about the nature of the experience for them. Four themes emerged from interviews with 12 prostate cancer patients describing their self‐education efforts in regard to their disease. A qualitative paradigm was used for this study with data collected using a semi‐structured interview protocol. Purposeful sampling technique was employed to identify information‐rich subjects who were within five years of diagnosis and who had used self‐directed learning extensively in coping with their prostate cancer. Using the constant comparative method, four common themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews: Men don't talk . The participants indicated that men are reluctant to talk about health problems, including prostate cancer. Living with the reality of my situation and my choices . These prostate cancer patients found that they had difficult choices to make in regard to their treatment and that learning about the side effects of their cancer treatments did not prepare them for the reality of actually experiencing them. The struggle with emotions. The men in this study appeared to be very strong in regard to the cognitive aspects of their self‐directed learning in regard to their cancer but to struggle with their emotional responses. Watchful waiting. The men in this study indicated that once having been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the process of dealing with it is never over. Their learning involved coming to terms with this uncertainty. Conclusions included that, for the men in this study, gender appeared to be an important influence on their experiences with self‐directed learning and prostate cancer.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Oklahoma, USA

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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