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“My Husband Has Breast Cancer”

A Qualitative Study of Experiences of Female Partners of Men With Breast Cancer

Egestad, Lisbeth Kofoed MSc, RN; Gyldenvang, Helle Holm MSc, RN; Jarden, Mary PhD, MScN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000710
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Background Relatives of patients with cancer are at risk of experiencing changes to their everyday life, health, and quality of life. Partners of men with breast cancer may face certain challenges regarding their need for information, care, and support.

Objective The purpose was to explore the experiences of the partners of men with breast cancer in relation to care, information, and emotional support and to explore how men with breast cancer impact the partners’ everyday life.

Method This was a qualitative study based on individual interviews applying a phenomenological-hermeneutical analysis.

Results Four themes were identified in the 12 female partners’ narratives: a wall of ignorance, being seen is not a matter of course, emotional stress affects everyday life, and side effects strain the couples’ relationship.

Conclusion The female partners’ need for information on male breast cancer (MBC) is not sufficiently met because of lack of and poorly communicated information on the topic. The female partner assumes the role of advocate, actively seeking information when in contact with health professionals. Daily life is negatively affected by a lack of acknowledgement of the impact of MBC on their lives and needs by their social networks or health professionals.

Implications for Practice Female partners have individual care, information, and emotional support needs that may differ from those of their male partner with breast cancer. Health professionals must improve communication with patients and relatives as there are lack of knowledge available regarding MBC and lack of evidence-based guidelines.

Author Affiliations: Department of Nursing, University College Copenhagen (Mrs Egestad); Departments of Oncology (Mrs Gyldenvang) and Oncology and Hematology (Dr Jarden), Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet; and Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen (Dr Jarden), Denmark.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

ORCID: L.K.E.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2276-8526; H.H.G.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2266-9069.

L.K.E. and H.H.G. are equal first authors.

Correspondence: Lisbeth Kofoed Egestad, MSc, RN, Department of Nursing, University College Copenhagen, Tagensvej 86, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark (Lisbeth.Egestad@hotmail.com).

Accepted for publication January 29, 2019.

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