Shifting masculinities amongst men diagnosed with breast cancer: a multi-method phenomenological inquiry


  • K. Quincey
  • I. Williamson
  • D. Wildbur


Background: Underacknowledged clinically and socially as a threat to men’s health, breast cancer in men persists as a critical health issue, with complex ramifications for those affected. Research exploring men’s breast cancer experiences and life beyond the illness event remains limited. Therefore, this research asks ‘How do we understand the experiences of men diagnosed with breast cancer?’ and aims to advance knowledge regarding men’s meaning-making of breast cancer and masculinity, and to give voice to what is currently an under-researched minority group. Methods: Thirty-One British men recruited via clinical records, a UK breast cancer charity and social media, recounted their breast cancer experiences using self-authored/selected photographs which they later discussed as part of extended semi-structured interviews. All data were analysed thematically following principles and conventions of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Findings: Findings revealed three superordinate masculinities: ‘threatened/exposed’, ‘protected/asserted’ and a ‘renewed/revitalised’ masculinity, which collectively demonstrate how the men implement and transition between masculinities across the illness trajectory, as they manage, make sense of and live through breast cancer. Using a model, we show how these masculinities are processed by the men from illness onset right through to being in-recovery. We discuss and evidence the identified masculinities, and their interrelationships, using quotes and images taken from the participants’ interview transcripts. Discussion: We consider how adopting these different masculinities at different points in time across the breast cancer episode aids men’s’ adjustment to illness, and re-adjustment to life post diagnosis and treatment. We conclude with recommendations for improving male patients’ experiences and outcomes.





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