Ending the silence: Male carers of women with breast cancer

By Efrosini Costa

Ending the silence: Male carers of women with breast cancer
As more and more women survive breast cancer, a lack of services catering to male carers and partners is becoming critical.

Men play a vital role as a supporter when their partner is diagnosed with breast cancer.  Yet, there is a significant gap in information, resources and support that exists for male partners of women living with breast cancer.

Father of three, Brian Brady knows all to well of the silent suffering that many male partners experience; his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.

“When you’re confronted with the fact that your wife has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, it can feel overwhelming. I tried to speak to family and friends – some tried to be helpful but they didn’t really know what to say or what to do or how to offer the support that I needed,” Mr Brady admitted recently, breaking the code of silence.

“There was help for my wife, there was information available on how to help the kids, but for me there was nothing.”

“Some of my mates wanted to take me out for a beer and show me a ‘good time’ to help me forget. All I wanted was someone to have a chat to but in that situation, mates will do anything rather than listen.”

Brady’s advice for other men in a similar position is to “try not to fix things” and to “accept being vulnerable”.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), Australia’s leading breast cancer research charity, recently released a landmark report into this issue.

Entitled, Ending the Silence, the report sheds light on the experience of male partners. Issue of concern that emerged from the study included a lack of information, inclusion and support as well as concerns about employment, sexual intimacy, body image and the changing nature of their personal relationship.

“The scientific literature recognises that there is a reciprocal relationship between the wellbeing of the partner and the wellbeing of the woman. It is therefore imperative that we start to treat partners as part of a unit of care,” NBCF’s CEO, Carole Renouf says.

“The problem is that men are incredibly hard to reach and reluctant to talk about their journey, their experience of being thrown into the caring role and their feelings about not being able to fix it. This makes it almost impossible for researchers to gather enough information to develop suitable resources, programs and support networks” Ms Renouf adds.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Can you relate to this story? Do you feel that more needs to be done to support male carers? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


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