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Male breast cancer patients do not receive the same support as female patients, says a new study

Tuesday, 01 October 2019

Men who suffer from hair loss as a result of treatment for breast cancer are often unfairly side-lined because the focus tends to be on women, according to new research.

In the study published in the journal Cancer Nursing during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, experts argue that is it important that men are equally supported to deal with hair loss resulting from their cancer treatment.

The research combines interview data from two separate studies to compare the experiences of men and women who have been treated for breast cancer, with a specific focus on cancer treatment-related hair loss.

The project, which is a collaboration between Dr Diane Trusson from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and Dr Kerry Quincey from the Institute for Psychological Sciences at De Montfort University, challenges the assumption that men are less affected by losing their hair and aims to ensure that men have similar access to support in order to deal with this side effect of their treatment.

The research reveals how cancer-related hair loss was a particular aspect of men’s experiences which tends to be neglected both in academic literature and in the support which is available to men when they are undergoing treatment.

In addition to interviews, men undergoing breast cancer treatments provided photographs to convey their experiences, including one participant who had chartered his change of appearance when he lost his hair. His photographs provided a stark contrast between his pre and post cancer treatment and showed the impact of hair loss on his self-identity.

The comparison of our studies revealed commonalities between the experiences of men and women, but also interesting contrasts such as men’s use of humour to mask their distress or embarrassment at losing their hair. It also showed how women are better able, and better supported, to disguise hair loss, including having the option of using a wig, whereas men were forced to reveal their baldness.”
Dr Diane Trusson

Dr Quincey said: “Our research demonstrates the similar emotions and distress experienced by men who have breast cancer to women with the same condition. A clear message from our male interviewees was that information and advice should be offered through the same channels as for women, rather than having separate resources.”

The authors add: “Hair loss should not be considered as a gendered experience and all cancer patients should be supported to deal with the side-effects of their treatment, regardless of their gender.”

A full copy of the study can be found here.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Diane Trusson at diane.trusson@nottingham.ac.uk or Dr Kerry Quincey at kerry.quincey@dmu.ac.uk

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