A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Cancer Research

Understanding the psychosocial impact of surviving testicular cancer
University of Sydney, NSW
Awarded 2011

“The average 5-year survival rate for Testicular Cancer patients is 95%.”

Researcher Profile

Ben received a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) with honours from the University of Sydney in 2006. His honours project investigated the impact of patient stories on medical decision making and began an interest in the psychological aspects of disease and its’ treatment. After completing honours Ben spent four years conducting psycho-oncology research at the Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision-making and the Psycho-Oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG). During this time Ben developed his knowledge and skills working on a variety of psycho-oncology research projects. His primary role during this time was coordinating the IBIS-II Prevention Decision Aid (DA) study, a large RCT of a DA for women at high risk of breast cancer considering participation in the IBIS-II clinical trial. He also played a key role in developing a new coding system for evaluating communication in doctor-patient consultations, and assessing the relative impact of cognitive and emotional aspects of shared decision making on patient outcomes.

Through his varied research experience Ben has acquired a broad understanding of the diverse psychosocial issues associated with different stages of the cancer journey and how best to measure them, plus the expertise necessary to implement large-scale research studies. Ben has also developed a keen interest in examining the psychosocial issues confronting men affected by cancer, as he believes this is a very important but under-researched area. Ben has been awarded the Australian Rotary Health Ian Scott Mental Health Scholarship in 2011 to continue his PhD research investigating the psychosocial impact of surviving testicular cancer. Ben is supervised by Professor Madeleine King, Professor Phyllis Butow and Professor Ian Olver at PoCoG, The University of Sydney.

Project Summary

Testicular cancer (TC) is the most common form of non-skin cancer in Australian men aged 15-35 years and its incidence is on the rise. Fortunately, advances in the diagnosis and treatment of TC have resulted in high cure rates for all stages of disease. The average 5-year survival rate for TC patients is 95%. The young age of men affected by TC, its increasing incidence, and effective treatment, amounts to a growing number of testicular cancer survivors (TCSs) for whom long-term wellbeing is a major concern.

No research has yet examined psychosocial outcomes in Australian TCSs, or whether recovery can be improved by revising patterns of care. Research is urgently needed to address this gap. The primary aim of this project is to determine the prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and psychosocial distress amongst Australian TCSs.

The current project comprises a well-designed cross-sectional analytic study with a follow-up qualitative component exploring issues of interest in more depth. Participants are asked to complete a questionnaire that includes self-report measures of psychological distress, supportive care needs, quality of life, coping, and social support. All TCSs who report high levels of distress are invited to take part in a semi-structured interview exploring difficulties experienced, and views on which factors contributed to and alleviated those difficulties.

This project is the first in the world to systematically explore demographic, disease, psychological, and external factors as predictors of psychosocial outcomes. The quantitative and qualitative data will provide invaluable guidance for a future planned prospective study. This study will make it possible to plan appropriate and targeted interventions for TCSs with the potential to reduce morbidity for this population.

Supervisors: Professor Madeleine King, Professor Phyllis Butow & Professor Ian Olver