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Male Caregivers of Patients With Breast and Gynecologic Cancer: Experiences From Caring for Their Spouses and Partners

Lopez, Violeta PhD, RN, FRCNA; Copp, Gina PhD, RN; Molassiotis, Alexander PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318231daf0

Background: There is considerable evidence demonstrating the negative effects of caregiving particularly in the areas of psychological well-being and quality of life of family caregivers of patients with cancer. However, there is little work on male caregivers’ subjective experience of caring for family members with cancer, and little is known on how caregivers experience the caring over time.

Objective: The objective of the study was to explore male spouses’/partners’ experience of caring for their wives/partners with breast and gynecologic cancer over a 1-year period.

Method: An exploratory longitudinal qualitative descriptive design using face-to-face interviews of 15 spouses/partners was used in this study. Content analysis of the transcribed data was conducted to extract significant categories and themes.

Results: Varying degrees of interrelated cognitive, physical, and psychological impact were experienced by caregivers that extended to 12 months. Gender-specific attitudes prevented male caregivers from supporting their own self. Male caregivers dealt with problems that arose in the caregiving congruent with their masculinity, such as minimizing disruptions, focusing on tasks, and keeping their own stress to themselves.

Conclusion: Male caregivers as a separate group with their own needs have not received much attention in the cancer literature, and their concerns and challenges may differ from those of female caregivers.

Implications for Practice: Male caregivers’ concerns and challenges must be taken into consideration when planning appropriate interventions to support them in their caregiving role.

Author Affiliations: Research Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Practice, Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra (Dr Lopez); School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, London (Dr Copp), and School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester (Dr Molassiotis), United Kingdom.

The funding for this study, as part of a program grant on patient experiences of cancer symptoms, was obtained from the Christie Hospital Charitable Trust, Manchester, United Kingdom.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Violeta Lopez, PhD, RN, FRCNA, Australian National University, RCNMP, TCH, Building 6, Level 3, Yamba Dr, Garran, Australian Capital Territory 2605, Australia (;

Accepted for publication August 5, 2011.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.