Body Image, Appearance and Physical Activity after Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

An opportunity for a fully-funded PhD studentship in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at UWE Bristol. The PhD is funded by the Above and Beyond charity.

The closing date for applications is Sunday 25 June 2017.

About the studentship

This is an exciting opportunity to conduct a very applied, funded PhD.  The successful candidate will benefit from the opportunities presented by being part of a thriving university research centre focussed on psychosocial aspects of appearance including those associated with cancer and physical activity, with a strong, vibrant postgraduate community, and links with relevant NHS services and support organisations.  The supervisory team and a project advisory group will include senior members of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) and the Public Health and Well Being Research Group at UWE Bristol, NHS Consultant Oncologists, and patient representatives, making this a multi-disciplinary research collaboration with extensive, relevant expertise.  

Prostate cancer treatment can have extensive and enduring impacts on appearance including weight gain, breast enlargement, hair loss, surgical scars and genital shrinkage.  These can cause considerable distress and have a profound impact on men’s quality of life, perceptions of their bodies and self-image including feelings of masculinity, sexuality and intimate relationships.   Yet, whilst there is an extensive literature into appearance issues associated with some cancers, research into men’s experiences of appearance-related issues after diagnosis of prostate cancer is limited.

A growing body of evidence reports the benefits of exercise before and after a prostate cancer diagnosis, to maximise survival and/or improved quality of life and NICE guidelines (2014) advise the provision of gym sessions for men who are undergoing treatment.  However, research has shown men’s reluctance towards gym attendance which is, partly, associated with appearance-related issues. 

This PhD will therefore explore issues around body image and appearance changes during and after prostate cancer treatment, and how these may impact on men’s participation in exercise and physical activity. It will build on the limited previous research into appearance and body image issues amongst men with prostate cancer, and the broader body image, appearance and exercise literatures to develop appropriate interventions to promote physical activity and psychological well-being amongst this patient group.

Upon completion of the PhD, the student would have expertise in the psychology of appearance, cancer and physical activity, and extensive research skills so they could be in a position to continue work in this field at post-doctoral level and establish themselves as a future leading figure in psychosocial prostate cancer and/or appearance research.

The aim of this PhD will be to use a mixed methods approach in order to:

  • Carry out an extensive, in-depth review of research evidence into prostate cancer, appearance changes, body image and physical activity, and current interventions aimed at improving men's engagement with physical activity during treatment for the disease.
  •  Conduct a qualitative study of the experiences of men treated for prostate cancer, focusing on the impact of treatment (particularly ADT) on body image and appearance, support needs and engagement with exercise and physical activity. 
  •  Conduct a national survey of men treated for prostate cancer to explore issues around appearance, body image and physical activity during and after treatment.
  • Produce recommendations for the development and delivery of specific resources and interventions to support prostate cancer patients, based on the findings of the previous studies.

Funding details

The studentship will start on 1 October 2017 and consists of an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 subject to satisfactory progress, for three years. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for three years, and a budget to cover consumables is available.

The studentship will only fully fund applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees. Applicants who are normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates.

Eligibility criteria

This is a three-year full-time commitment.  The project is ideal for a self-motivated and enthusiastic student with a good honours degree (2:1 or equivalent) in psychology or other relevant field, and evidence of further study at Masters level or equivalent (eg MSc health psychology, public health or sport and exercise psychology).

Knowledge and experience of the psychosocial impact of cancer and changes to appearance, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and research into sensitive issues will be very desirable, as will experience of working in NHS settings and conducting appearance-related and/or prostate cancer research.

How to apply

Download and complete the application form and send it directly to the UWE Bristol Graduate School. Please ensure you include the title of the research project you propose to undertake, and detail why you are interested in undertaking this PhD project and what relevant knowledge, experience and qualifications you would bring to the research. Please see the guidance notes for further information about how to complete the application form.

Please also complete the Equal Opportunities form and complete the first section of the Application reference sheet before sending to your nominated referees.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Professor Diana Harcourt (

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Sunday 25 June 2017.

Further information

Interviews will take place in July 2017.

If you have not heard from us by 31 July 2017, we thank you for your application but do not wish to pursue it on this occasion.

The start date of this PhD studentship is 1 October 2017.

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