We often recommend support groups to our patients to help them better cope with various issues surrounding their cancer diagnosis (i.e. treatment options, side effects, complications, financial issues, etc.) Unfortunately, the emotional impact of a diagnosis of cancer on ones’ loved ones too often goes unaddressed.
In this small study, many of the male partners of breast cancer patients stated that “their partner’s diagnosis was their darkest day, and that they struggled to find hope and balance after juggling career, added household duties and care.”
Over the last few years, we are seeing more support groups being established for the partners of those with cancer. In my experience working with cancer patients and their partners, the male partners rarely express an interest in attending support groups to help them cope with their loved ones’ cancer (let alone attending support groups to help them with their own diagnosis.) To better understand this issue, the researchers in this study asked a small group of male partners of breast cancer patients if they had interest in participating in a support group.
Findings: Not surprisingly, the researchers reported that although the majority of these men wanted to be able to share their experiences and hear from the other men who went through similar struggles, they didn’t want to attend support groups. Some of the men indicated their concern that by taking time from work or family to attend support groups, they might miss attending medical appointments with their spouses to hear information first-hand. Instead, the spouses indicated that they preferred to find balance by “turning to exercise, music, hobbies and time away with friends.”
I ask this question to the IOE community: As one of the authors writes, “If their husbands lose hope, the wives are really, really worried about them and they often lose hope themselves. For women with breast cancer, it actually helps with their own quality of life if we can do something to help the men. It’s very interconnected.”
Aside from continuing to ask our patients’ loved ones how they are coping with their partners’ cancer and recommending provider support groups, what else should we be doing?
I’d be very interested to read your comments.