Masculinities, humour and care for penile cancer: a qualitative study

Peter Branney, Karl Witty, Debbie Braybrook, Kathryn Bullen, Alan White, Ian Eardley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim. To explore how men with penile cancer construct humour in relation totheir diagnosis and treatment.Background. Functionalist, relief and incongruity theories attempt to account forhumour, but there is a dearth of empirical evidence in nursing care. This isparticularly so in relation to a condition like penile cancer where some nursesthink that humour in their interactions with patients would be inappropriate.Design. The study employed a participative, mixed-qualitative-methods design.Method. Focus groups and patient-conducted interviews were both used during aone-day ‘pilot workshop' in March 2011. The data were initially analysed usingframework analysis. This paper explores the theme of humour in depth.Findings. Humour helped participants make light of their condition, which meantthat they could laugh about the consequences of treatment (‘laughing abouturination') and build rapport with health professionals (‘humour with healthprofessionals'). Nevertheless, the use of humour was less important than thetreatment of their cancer (‘humour discounted') and there was a fear that theywould be subject to ridicule because of their condition (‘fear of ridicule').Conclusion. The findings suggest a combination of functionalist, relief andincongruity theories of humour; the emotions these men experience arecontained (functionalist) and released (relief) through humorous interaction, andthe potential for comedy lies in an incongruity between what is expected sociallyand the experiences of these men, for example, around expectations that menuse urinals in public toilets. Nurses should continue to use humour to buildrapport with patients, should they judge this to be appropriate, although theymay want to avoid jokes about sexual and urinary functioning until aftertreatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2051-2060
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2014


  • masculinities
  • nursing
  • participative
  • patient involvement
  • penile cancer
  • penis
  • qualitative methods


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