Breast Cancer in men

Peer support and support groups

Many people appreciate having support when they first find out they have cancer, whilst they are having treatment or when they are beginning to recover. Men talked about several sources of support that had helped them through difficult times. The most important source of support for most men was their family (see ‘Support from family, friends and colleagues’) and many men had also been given valuable support by their breast care nurse and other people (see ‘Support from the breast care nurse and other sources’).

Although family and friends and health care workers can all be very important in helping to support someone with cancer, very often people also want to talk to someone who is in the same situation as they are. Because breast cancer in men is very rare, it is very unusual for men to have come across another man with breast cancer. Bill was the only one to have personally known another man with breast cancer before he was diagnosed himself. Some men felt strongly that this was another way in which they might be at a disadvantage in relation to women with breast cancer. Many said that they had not been offered the chance to go to a support group, although some of them wished that they had been.
A few men thought that they would not have wanted to go to a support group, even if this had been offered to them. Interview 07 said he was ‘no one o’ them kind o’ guys’ and wouldn’t have had the energy anyway. Robert B said he was fine anyway and ‘well supported’ and Steve didn’t feel he needed more support because he had not needed to have either chemotherapy or radiotherapy. John said that he would have struggled to find enough money for bus fares for anything extra because he was unemployed and finding money very short. Some men were also conscious that they would probably be the only man in the group.
Some men were in two minds about whether they would have gone along to a support group if they had had the chance to go. Often they wondered whether they might have been able to help others if they had been part of a patient group.
A few men had gone along to a support group for people with cancer. Stuart went to a support group at the hospital but the other patients were all women and much older than him and he felt that he did not have much in common with them apart from breast cancer. Bill had also been to the local breast cancer support group and said the women there were “very supportive”, but wished there could be some “collective voice for men with breast cancer because there are so few of them”.
A few other men had had positive experiences of going to breast cancer patient support groups.
Derek went to a breast cancer centre but he did not like to go too often because he didn’t want to be a nuisance.
Some of the groups were more like a fundraising group than a support group, but they gave men the chance to meet other patients with cancer and sometimes to try things they were unlikely to have been offered otherwise.
Tom had met a group of women who were taking Herceptin when he organised and ran a discussion group to help out at the hospital, and the group stayed in touch. He did say that, without this, he may have felt ‘sidelined’ because he had not been invited to any of the local support networks.
Tim was already part of a very supportive men’s group before he was diagnosed with breast cancer. He commented on how unusual it was for men to be open up their deepest worries and tell each other anything, and that generally men were not as good at doing this as women.
In the past Tim, like a small number of the other men, had volunteered to be part of a fashion show organised to raise awareness about breast cancer by Breast Cancer Care. This has given another opportunity to meet other people with breast cancer. HGV King had taken a video of the fashion show to show to the women in his support group later. He had felt very comfortable with both sets of women and able to talk and express emotions freely with them.
None of the men had been part of a group with other men with breast cancer, but a few men had been put in touch with another man with breast cancer and they had found it helpful to meet and have this one to one support. Because BT had found this helpful, he had offered to do the same for other men.
Other men described how their own experiences had helped them to offer support to other people, and a lot of men said they wanted to do this. Roy had talked to other men who had developed other forms of cancer, and some men had supported women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Only a couple of men talked about seeking out support through online sources, such as website forums. A few men said that it would have been really helpful if they could have looked at a website dedicated to breast cancer in men.

Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.
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