Men With Breast Cancer Struggle With Their Masculinity, Face Unique Challenges

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Jessica Nye, PhD


The fact that breast cancer is typically described as a “woman’s disease” can have psychosocial impacts for men with breast cancer.

Men experienced unique issues, particularly affecting their sense of masculinity, after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, according to a systematic review published in BMC Cancer.

Male breast cancer (MBC) is a rare condition but is increasing in prevalence worldwide. The fact that breast cancer is typically described as a “woman’s disease” can have psychosocial impacts for men with breast cancer.

To evaluate the experiences of men with breast cancer, investigators from universities in the United Kingdom searched publication databases through September 2023 for relevant articles. A total of 44 studies published between 2000 and 2023 were included in this review.

The investigators identified 3 themes each with 3 subthemes. The themes involved navigating threats to masculinity, navigation through treatment, and coping.

Men generally had the perception that breast cancer could not affect their body. Patients experienced feeling dumbfounded, shocked, and surprised by their diagnosis. The perception that breast cancer is a feminine illness threatened the sense of masculinity or personhood for many men. Some patients were not willing to disclose their diagnosis to others due to shame

Navigating breast cancer treatment could be challenging for men because treatment pathways are tailored for women. Men reported having difficulty finding a physician, scheduling therapeutic regimens such as mammography, educational materials were targeted for women, and a lack of male-specific psychosocial support.

In coping with breast cancer, men reported having challenges accessing support; however, one study found that few men would have liked the opportunity to discuss their diagnosis with other men with breast cancer.

The review authors concluded, “Our findings suggest the need for healthcare professionals’ training and education on managing interactions with MBC patients in a way that does not propagate a sense of awkwardness and otherness in a [feminized] support structure.”


Abboah-Offei M, Bayuo J, Salifu Y, Afolabi O, Akudjedu TN. Experiences and perceptions of men following breast cancer diagnosis: a mixed method systematic review. BMC Cancer. 2024;24(1):179. doi:10.1186/s12885-024-11911-9