Men With Cancer Receive Less Emotional Support
No one wants to stereotype people, but recent research shows that men with cancer receive less emotional support than women. In a blog post by Sanchia Aranda, published at www.cancer.org.au, the author suggests that improved emotional support is needed for men who are facing cancer.
The perceived differences between men and women are part of the problem. For example, according to studies, men and women experience some of these emotions when they receive a cancer diagnosis and embark on a treatment plan:
Both men and women have these feelings. Aranda states, however, that “Whilst it is common for us to accept that men and women may handle these emotions in quite different ways, men are often portrayed as having less distress, less depression, and less anxiety throughout the cancer journey, and therefore less need of mental and emotional support.”
Why Are We Not Supporting Men with Cancer?
There may be several reasons men are not getting the support they need. Consider the following reasons pondered by Aranda in her blog.
Medical professionals might simply not be equipped with the tools needed to recognize signs of emotional distress in men. According to this author, many assessments are created around women with breast cancer. They focus on “overt” signs of anxiety and stress that women tend to show.
Men, however, “display” emotions differently. Some men do tend to internalize their feelings, even though that plays into stereotypes. Men might be reluctant to ask for help or willingly share their fears because it might make them “feel like less of a man.” Aranda stated that of all the calls made in 2019 to the cancer council helpline, only 20% were from men. This suggests that men might feel more pressure to act strong, suppress their concerns, and pretend that they are fine.
Developing Better Ways to Support Men with Cancer
As research continues regarding the needs of all cancer patients, the hope is that new tools will be developed to help recognize the signs of emotional distress in everyone – regardless of gender. But, some cancers are gender-specific and present unique circumstances, side effects, and emotions that other patients do not necessarily experience.
For men, in particular, that cancer is prostate cancer which is often very treatable. However, in addition to worrying about having cancer in general, men often experience unwanted side effects like incontinence, bowel problems, and sexual dysfunction that can impact important daily activities and relationships. Health care professionals who understand this can learn to recognize signs of distress associated with these issues. Then they can begin treating the complex emotions that result.
Aranda feels that it is critical to create assessment tools to help medical professionals recognize and address mental distress in men with cancer. Doctors might have to consider taking different approaches when caring for their cancer patients’ emotional health.
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