‘Marginalised malignancies’: A qualitative synthesis of men’s accounts of living with breast cancer

6 min


Breast cancer in men is a rare but significant public health issue; it is responsible for more deaths in men than penile or testicular cancer.

While breast cancer occurs in men and women for similar biological reasons, socially, the disease is considered very differently for each gender. Research is needed to inform care that addresses these social differences.


The aim of this paper was to review and synthesise research examining men’s experiences of breast cancer.


A systematic review of qualitative studies on men’s experiences of breast cancer was conducted. Eight databases were searched with the terms ‘men’ OR ‘male’ AND/WITH ‘breast cancer’ AND ‘experiences.’

The search was limited to English-language, peer-reviewed articles. Studies were synthesised using a meta-ethnographic approach.


The search yielded eight studies that included 92 accounts of men’s experiences of breast cancer in Western countries. Studies were conducted from 2000-2013 using various populations and methods.

Four primary themes emerged:


The findings of this review highlight the constrained, gendered framework with which breast cancer is understood in Western societies. Men reported receiving little choice in their care options or offer of formal psychosocial support.

However, they also distanced themselves from the limited support options available to protect their masculinity and in doing so further marginalised themselves within the breast cancer space.

Education of both health professionals and men is needed to reduce these two forms of marginalisation (i.e. other and self).

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