Cancer, Sex and Intimacy: The Experiences of Gay, Bisexual and Queer Men

Prof Doc Thesis

Ward, H. 2022. Cancer, Sex and Intimacy: The Experiences of Gay, Bisexual and Queer Men. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsWard, H.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Background: Cancer and its treatments can significantly impact on a person’s sexuality and intimacy, resulting in considerable changes to sexual function, relationships, and self-concept. People from sexual minorities often have to contend with these changes whilst navigating healthcare settings which are centred around heteronormative principles and practices, resulting in difficulties receiving relevant support and advice. Research in this area has typically focused on the impact of sexual and reproductive cancers and little is known about how sexual minority men experience sexuality and intimacy across cancer types.
Method: A qualitative methodology was adopted to explore how gay, bisexual and queer (GBQ) men experience sexuality and intimacy in the context of cancer. Six men who had been diagnosed with a range of cancer types (prostate, bowel and multiple myeloma) took part in semi-structured interviews. Data was analysed using reflexive thematic analysis from a critical realist perspective.
Results: Three overarching themes were identified. ‘Navigating altered sexuality and relationships’ explored how participants experienced changes and challenges in their sexual and intimate relationships. ‘Undergoing changes in the self’ described the impact on the participants’ identity and psychological wellbeing. ‘Seeking community and support’ captured the importance of support, information and advice from peers and healthcare professionals.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate that regardless of cancer type, sexuality and intimacy are disrupted, subsequently affecting relationships, self-concept and psychological wellbeing. Support groups, peer mentoring, and open conversations about sex with healthcare professionals are needed to support GBQ men in navigating and overcoming sexual changes. Increased awareness and an appreciation of people with cancer as sexual beings is needed to normalise conversations about cancer and sex.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online13 Jan 2023
Publication process dates
Completed11 Aug 2022
Deposited13 Jan 2023
Permalink -

Download files

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File access level: Anyone

  • 226
    total views
  • 188
    total downloads
  • 10
    views this month
  • 9
    downloads this month

Export as