The Influence of relational factors on men's adjustment to their partners' newly-diagnosed breast cancer

Barry N. Feldman, University of Massachusetts Medical School
C. Anne Broussard, University of New Hampshire

At the time of publication, Barry Feldman was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Steadily rising breast cancer rates in America's women are forcing more men to confront challenges of living with a partner afflicted with this disease. This study assesses teh impact of mutual emotional support as perceived by male partners on their adjustment to the diagnosis and the illness and on interactions between their perceived emotional support nd their coping methods. Seventy-one male partners of newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients completed standardized instruments that measured emotional wellbeing, illness intrusiveness, emotional support, dyadic coping styles and demographic factors. Regression analysis revealed significant associations between perceived emotional support and men's coping strategies, and between coping styles and illness intrusiveness. Also, a history of depression predisposes men to poorer adjustment and affects their coping patterns. Findings suggest that as the health care system continues to relocate burden of care to partners and families, social workers must increase their understanding of how to effectively assist patients' partners. This study emphasizes the need to work with patients and partners to develop positive coping strategies as a couple.