Young Men With Cancer

A Literature Review

Heather J. Campbell-Enns, MSc; Roberta L. Woodgate, PhD, RN


Cancer Nurs. 2013;36(1):E36-47. 

In This Article

The Review

A review of the literature was carried out by both authors using a systematic strategy. The search strategy included electronic databases such as SCOPUS, MEDLINE via PubMed, and EBSCO (CINAHL; Family & Society Studies Worldwide). Original research articles published between 1990 and 2011 in the English language were sourced using the terms youngmen, men, male, and cancer experience. Few articles were found with these terms; consequently, the search was expanded to use the terms father, parents, and cancer experience in an effort to capture original research incorporating this age group.

The abstracts found were reviewed to identify studies that were original research. The focus of the literature was to remain on the cancer experience of young men with cancer 20 to 44 years old. The young adult age range varies slightly throughout the literature, but this age range was selected for the purpose of this review to coincide with previous young adult research.[1] Therefore, to be included in this literature review, the literature must be (1) an original research, (2) have a purpose relating to the experience of men with a cancer diagnosis, and (3) include men aged 20 to 44 years within the sample.

When an article met the search requirements, the reference list was examined in an effort to discover further relevant research. After articles were identified, a preliminary reading occurred to confirm that a portion of the participant group was men with a cancer diagnosis and within the young adult age group range of 20 to 44 years. Several articles did not declare participant ages. When men's ages were not provided, articles that focused specifically on men with cancer who were fathers of young children were included in the review based on the likelihood that the men were within the reproductive age group at the time of diagnosis.

Search Results

A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria and are summarized in the Table. Each article was read by the authors to identify the purpose, setting, methodology, characteristics of the sample, and results. Articles were then compared by the authors for common themes. Most studies originated in European countries (n = 11), whereas 2 studies originated in the United States and 1 study each was conducted in China, Brazil, and Canada. Six studies were composed exclusively of male participants, whereas 10 studies included a combination of men and female respondents. Various types of cancer are represented within the studies, including testicular, colorectal, head and neck, osteosarcoma, and cancer of the blood and others. Fourteen studies specified the mean participant age or the participant age range. Four studies included fathers of children aged newborn to 22 years. Two of the subset of studies focusing on fatherhood did not define the ages of the participants but rather defined the ages of their children as an alternative descriptor.

Of the 16 studies, 12 were qualitative in nature, whereas 4 were quantitative cross-sectional questionnaires or surveys. Among the 12 qualitative studies, grounded theory (n = 1), ethnographic (n = 1), and narrative (n = 5) methodologies were used. Several labels were used to describe the qualitative study designs where an explicit methodology was not declared, including ''thematic,'' ''interpretive,'' ''exploratory,'' and ''crosssectional.'' Three studies were secondary analysis of data, and it is noteworthy that 2 of these studies were conducted by the same lead author and derived from what appears to be the same data collection. The qualitative studies relied on interviews to elicit data from participants, yet only Mesquita et al[18] and Semple and McCance[24] provided interview topic guides, whereas Brodsky,[10] Cecil et al,[11] and Elmberger et al[13] provided examples of questions that were asked in the interview process. Theoretical or conceptual frameworks were declared by the authors of 3 studies. These frameworks include the theory of transition,[13] a conceptualization of gender,[16] and a conceptualization of work.[19]