Objective: To explore how men and their partners utilise social support in the first 12 months following a localised prostate cancer diagnosis.
Design: A longitudinal qualitative design.
Methods: Eighteen couples were recruited from two outpatient clinics following a localised prostate cancer diagnosis. Participants took part in semi-structured interviews at three time-points following diagnosis. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Support networks for couples became smaller as time progressed. Stigma was seen to have a role in men’s disclosure decisions. Partners generally provided higher levels of support than they received back. By Time 3, men who had previously attended social support groups rejoined to seek informational and emotional support. For partners, there appeared to be a fine line between disclosing their true feelings and protecting their partner, and they appeared to struggle to access meaningful emotional support and accept instrumental support from trusted others.
Conclusions: The findings expand our understanding of the support between couples in the months following diagnosis. Social support groups were highlighted as an important source of support. Further research is now needed to help identify which couples may benefit from professional encouragement to attend these groups and which couples may benefit from alternative support provision.