Mixed sex support groups for BC

Mixed sex support groups for BC

Mixed sex support groups for BC I’ve noticed that one of the matters you’ve discussed on the mens’ section of the forum is the lack of opportunity for men to join breast cancer support groups and the resistance of some support groups to let you join them.

My view is that I don’t feel that mixed sex breast cancer support groups particularly benefit either men or women and might actually reduce the benefits for women, though I’m open to hearing the case for them from both men & women.

I go to two all -women support groups. I don’t know whether men have ever expressed an interest in joining or what the reaction would be from the organisers and regulars if they did. If men did join, I would still go, but I’m not sure how it would work out and whether I would keep going.

At womens’ breast cancer support groups, we talk about things that affect both sexes who’ve had breast cancer - surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal treatments, but we also talk about specific womens’ stuff related to breast cancer - female fertility, the female menopause, periods, sexuality. And being a group of women together, we also talk about men. We also show each other the results of reconstructive surgery so that other women considering it can see what it looks like to help them decide whether to have it done.

I’m not sure how men are going to be helped by listening to women at a support group talking about their fertility and gynaecology. I’m quite happy to talk about things like that with other women and also my husband and son, but frankly, I don’t want to talk about it to someone else’s male husband, partner, father, son or brother, even if he does have breast cancer. Nor do I want to show him my reconstruction.

A lot of these female specific subjects are discussed in other parts of this forum, but men rarely if ever contribute to them so I imagine it is of little interest to you and that the same would apply when these matters are discussed at support groups.

I have a couple of questions to ask of the men that use this forum and also the women that come here and who may have experience of mixed breast cancer support groups:

What specifically can a man with breast cancer get from a mixed sex breast cancer support group that he can’t get from a mixed sex support group covering a variety of cancers?

and, just as importantly, is the the addition of men with breast cancer to a previously women-only support group going to improve or diminish the support experience for the women. If so, how?

I think that there’s a strong possibility that a mixed breast cancer support group could diminish the support and benefit that women get from it so I’m interested to know what others think and, where men have been turned away from womens’ support groups, what reasons have been given.

Daphne Hi Daphne

Thanks for the post on a most important subject. You don’t say at all in your post if you have been a meeting of both men and women with BC.

However it seems clear that you have alrready made your mind up.

“My view is that I don’t feel that mixed sex breast cancer support groups particularly benefit either men or women and might actually reduce the benefits for women,”

I do sometime attend a group that is made up of people with different cancers. I’m the only one there with BC and I feel sometime a bit of a curiosity because of that.

How are men with breast cancer to get support then? Am I not as scarred as women? Has it not affected my sexuality? Has it not affected the way I think about my body? Now I know I can’t be affected by BC the same way a woman can but it does come close in almost all respects. Was I told the chemotherapy could affect my fertility? The answer is no, but I should have been because it could have. Was I told that taking tamoxifen would have a great effect on my libido? No I wasn’t but it certainly had. It also gave me many of the common “menopausal” symptoms that women have - grateful for that because I have an empathy for women that I did not expect to have. When my wife reaches that stage I will be empathetic as well as sympathetic.

Was I told that taking arimidex would give me osteporosis? No, I wasn’t but it did and I have all sorts of aches and pains that are common features in postings by others taking the drug.

Was I welcome at the breast cancer support group I attend? Yes, I was made very welcome and the women there were not at all conerned that I was there and it is such a protected atmosphere that I have have never felt I’ve been obtrusive or casued any subject not to be discussed.

I have done many things to raise awareness the BC is not a gender specific disease. Perhaps the most surpising is that I appeared “topless” in the SUN newspaper alongside two women who had had mastectomies. I was, at first, unsure about doing this and told them that I would do it if the women did. It was a bit of a surprise when they agreed!

On revisiting that episode, I find myself thinking that almost everything that has has befallen me because of BC can be mirrored in the outcome for women.

As a man with BC I do have concerns about ther equity of treatment that we get, but things are changing a bit now and I think they are changes for the better. Of course, if I had felt my being at the support group was making others uncomfortable then I would have reconsidered my membership. That has never been the case and I will be ever grateful to those who accepted me into their midst becaue I was a common member of the group because of BC not an uncommon one because I was a man.

Common also was the treatment we received because of the cancer. I had two mastectomies, checmotherapy, tamoxifen and them arimidex. I had this treatment in spite of being a man and because I had breast cancer - infiltrating ductal carcinoma of the breast - the most common type of breast cancer.

As soon as my wife’s hand came on the lump on my chest I was worried because I knew men could get breast cancer. Many people don’t know that and that’s a shame. Many people think that it isn’t the same cancer as women get, and that’s a shame too.

So, I’m grateful for these fora that give me such an insight into the lives of people who have BC. I’m one of them after all! I’m grateful also to this site because we can be candid in our writings not least because BC can be lots of things to lots of people and yet, much of it can be measured on how each effect can affect those of us with BC.

Perhaps you would be interested to know that I am a volunteer for BCC. I hope that you are not too surprised to hear that in that capacity I speak to people with breast cancer and I’ve never had a bad reaction to me speaking with them.

it seems such a long answer to your questions but I cannot agree with you that I would not be an asset to a BC supprt group and I would be unhappy, as I’ve already said, if I thought I was less than a useful addition to the group.

Best wishes


I too Daphne,
Thanks for the interest in our discussion regarding the Breast Cancer Support Groups and in fact it was I, who was the instigator of that discussion.

Like many of the men who post on this forum are keen to highlight that this is a genderless disease and at the time when I was going my roller coaster of emotions and just needed to talk to someone who had been there - there was no one. My wife approached three Breast Cancer Support Groups in my local area and not one of them was willing to let me through the door simply because I am a “man”. I can understand that women may not be at ease talking about their feelings or specific side effects as the result, but I would like to think that I could be sensitive enough to only attend occasionally or to leave should the situation arise during a meeting. The pure and simple fact is, I wasn’t even given the chance and to me that attitude perpetuates the gender specific or to risk being totally un-pc sexist.

I have had a full mastectomy, no reconstruction, radiotherapy and I am on Tamoxifen for the next 5 years. The side effects of all these treatments as far as we know are no different to those that a women may suffer. I for example have had hot flushes, an expanding waistline - dependant on the time of day and have had periodic eye trouble. At worst I could have suffered impotence and I’m fairly sure that the messing around with the hormone balance in a mans body could also lead to infertility - I am 42 years old!

To be fair, my wife was told that she could attend.

I’m going on holiday in June, to Greece. I have two young daughters - do I pack lots of white T-shirts so I can swim with them or try and put any biggotry aside and go topless? Just something to think about.

Daphne, I’m sorry this appears to have prevoked a rant - but at the end of the day if you don’t want Men to come to Breast Cancer Support Groups, I suggest that you campaign for a name change, because the inference is that these support groups are for anyone - Male or Female who has breast cancer and I fit into that category.

Best Regards


As another female, here ismy tuppence worth I have stated before that BC is not gender specific and I really feel this needs to be more widely known to the public at large.

Brain, I am really sorry that you were excluded by other human beings when you needed information and support and I am even more sorry that you were excluded by those same human beings who must have known exactly how you were feeling and then should have understood that you were probably feeling even worse than that.

Because BC is sooo considered a “female” disease and because it is a disease of the breast, it must be very hard for any male to deal with such a dx, you have the whole additional [and I do not mean this offensively] male “ego” thing to deal with as well, both mentally and from other male members.

While I can understand your point also Daphne in so much as other women may feel shy or inhibited about talking so frankly in front of a “strange” male, the one thing that bonds us all together here, both men and women, is that we all have BC.

I personally would not have a problem with mixed sex support groups and think that, although it is a fact that men and women tend to have a different mental view of life, we can learn from both sides and share knowledge from both views.

Ultimately we are all human beings, we all have our fears and hopes and dreams, we all need a helping hand and some kindness in our lives and I think by both genders working together, it can only improve the situation for all BC people as time passes.


Support groups My feeling is that the disease doesn’t discriminate by gender, so why should the support groups? In my opinion to exclude someone who is looking for support from a group of people who should understand how they feel is wrong. Brian, I’m sorry you came across so many closed doors when all you wanted was the support these groups were set up to give.

By the way, I also agree with Daphne that some people may feel uncomfortable talking about certain things in front of someone of the opposite sex (this could apply to both men and women) but surely a suport group could accomodate this and allow an element of privacy if and when required.

We are all humans, and all need kindness and support from others.

Jo x

ps Are there single sex groups for other types of cancer I wonder?

Thanks for your support Siggy and Jopurple,
Thanks for your support on the issue. I am particularly pleased that you are both pragmatic enough to understand that there is little to no difference in the way that men feel about being inflicted with this disease.

I may have been a little harsh on Daphne, but as I tried to point out, I understand that some women would feel uncomfortable discussing issues with men present, but from what I understand, and please correct me if I am wrong, BC support Groups are for anyone affected by BC, and surely that also includes partners, husbands, and wives. That being the case, do husbands get evicted or hinder proceedings?

My wife has been a rock throughout all of this, but sometimes she has felt the need for emotional support that she hasn’t wanted to trouble me with and it would have been an ideal forum for her to get that support. She is also very principled and because of the response from my local support groups she refused to go for fear of letting rip. A Group organiser even suggested that the membership should be polled to see if they would accept me into the group - you can imagine what I felt about that.

Just picking up on your “PS” Jopurple - yes there are what may be considered single sex support groups - for example Ovarian Cancer and Prostate Cancer - but the point here is that Breast Cancer is completely genderless albeit heavily weighted toward the female. I can only guess that one reason for that is that females have more breast tissue and that is only my assumption.

Anyway I just wanted to say thank you for your support - I only wish more were as understanding as you obviously are.

Kind Regards


More on support groups Bill, you ask whether I have ever been to a mixed-sex breast cancer support group. No I haven’t. If there was one in my area, I would probably go to it out of curiousity and if I liked it, I would keep going. I’m pleased for you that you have found a welcoming breast cancer support group.

You incorrectly say that I have already made up my mind up about them, but if you re-read my post you will see that I say that I don’t see any particular benefit from mixed- sex support groups, “though I’m open to hearing the case for them from both men & women”.

You ask how men with breast cancer are supposed to get support. One possibility is to go to a support group for a variety of cancers. For example, men with Prostate Cancer & Testicular cancer experience surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, same as men with Breast Cancer, so their experiences and side effects, both physical & emotional will have a lot of similarities to those of men with breast cancer. Having erectile problems or testicles removed is going to affect libido as much, if not more than breast cancer treatment. Cancer is cancer, there are many common experiences, regardless of what type you have.

Some men with Prostate Cancer are treated with Zoladex, the same hormone therapy that is sometimes used for breast cancer. Prostate patients can experience very similar side effects to breast cancer patients from hormone therapies - hot flushes, weight gain, sexual problems. What is the emotional support that male breast cancer patients feel that they can get from women breast cancer patients that they can’t get from male patients with prostate or testicular cancer? Do they think that they will get more sympathy from women than men?

Brian, you say that breast cancer a isn’t gender specific. Well it is to the extent that annual incidence of breast cancer in men is less than 1% of the incidence in women. That is a tiny minority so obviously breast cancer is predominantly a women’s disease.

As I said in my original post, treatment for breast cancer - surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapies are not gender specific. However, the effects on childbearing, menstruation, menopause and female sexuality are. I notice that you state that you would be sensitive enough at a mixed-sex breast cancer support meeting to only attend occasionally or leave during a meeting if sensitive womens’ stuff came up, but quite honestly, if you have to do that doesn’t it support the case for NOT having mixed-sex support groups? Seems to be a lot of potential for awkward silences and people disappearing into separate rooms to discuss sensitive stuff or show their reconstructions.

You mention that not being given the opportunity to attend a breast cancer support group is sexist which leads me to comment on the piece you did for ITV West news on men with breast cancer. I saw the item and I thought it was generally good, however, I thought that the overall message was undermined because I felt the piece dwelt unnecessarily on breast cancer information which used to be given to men providing guidance on vacuuming, hanging out washing and wearing a thimble when sewing. The implication on the ITV news item was that it was insulting to men to give them literature about household chores. I found this sexist. It is the 21st Century do men still get away with having women do all these chores for them? Of course, men do some of these activities, same as women do DIY and gardening and strenuous sports so it’s obvious that guidance given to both sexes should cover all these activities which affect the upper body.

There are two types of breast cancer groups where I have no problem with men being involved, including male family and friends of breast cancer patients - campaigning and fundraising groups. The other type of group is one that provides emotional support. In my original post, I asked two questions:

  1. What specifically can a man with breast cancer get from a mixed sex breast cancer support group that he can’t get from a mixed sex support group covering a variety of cancers?

  2. Is the the addition of men with breast cancer to a previously women-only support group going to improve or diminish the support experience for the women. If so, how?

I haven’t seen any comments that answer these questions satisfactorily for me. All the focus seems to be on what men can get out of mixed-sex support groups, rather than how male attendance can maintain or improve the experience for women as well as providing benefit to the men.

I think you chaps are to be congratulated on raising awareness that men can have breast cancer and it has helped me increase my husband’s awareness. And you have done well to improve the information available to men who’ve been diagnosed.

But, I remain unconvinced that mixed- sex breast cancer support groups are a good idea and I think they can be less helpful to women than single sex support groups. If men pressure women only support groups to let them in, I think there is danger that the wellbeing of women could be sacrificed for the sake of male pride & ego. I’m going to be really controversial here, but I have to say it. I think that the real male objection to some women not wanting men in their breast cancer support groups is not because they have a very strong case that it is genuinely a good thing for both men and women, but because the thought of women not wanting men in their support group is a blow to the male ego.

Of course, the best way to test how people really feel is for men to with breast cancer to set up their own breast cancer support groups and invite women to them and see what happens. There’s no limit to the number of support groups a person can attend so there’s no reason why women couldn’t attend a mixed-sex breast cancer support group and a women-only breast cancer support group if both were available.

The last word Dear Daphne,
When I said I was considerate to others specific needs I meant it. The ITV West News item was sexist and that was the point - the support offered to men is sexist. I agree it is a modern age and I fully support my family in every way and share the household duties even to the point of doing the vaccumming, washing, sewing, cooking, gardening but I draw the line at wearing undergarments inappropriate to my gender. The reporter wanted me to be more specific on the support issue but out of consideration for others I refused to belittle the Support Groups and why should I - they offer an excellent forum for support - even if it is just for women.

It would seem logical if nothing else, that a Breast Cancer sufferer should be able to go to a Breast Cancer Support Group.

No one - throughout this entire thread, has denied the fact that the vast majority of sufferers are women, but why, because there are proportionally less than 1% of male sufferers does this make it gender specific, that is almost the same as saying that Breast Cancer in men is a completely different disease. And I don’t think the male ego has anything to do with this - surely the issue is emotional support to breast cancer sufferers whether male or female full stop.

In an attempt to answer your two questions:

“1. What specifically can a man with breast cancer get from a mixed sex breast cancer support group that he can’t get from a mixed sex support group covering a variety of cancers?”

I believe that the synergy of the disease Breast Cancer would enable the group to bond and everyone concerned receive the emotional support that can be gleaned from all walks of life. Everyones experiences are different under a common banner - even woman to woman, a man would offer similar support from a different perspective. That synergy would be absent if it were a mixed cancer group - as Bill has pointed out.

“2. Is the the addition of men with breast cancer to a previously women-only support group going to improve or diminish the support experience for the women. If so, how?”

Again I believe that the emotional and physical experiences of a man with breast cancer can only be of benefit to the BC support group and sometimes a woman might want to have the males perspective.

As you have pointed out, men are a small percentage of the whole, and for a man to start an independant Breast Cancer Support Group would be a waste of resources, especially when Breast Cancer Support Groups are so abundant anyway. I’m sure the charities that fund these groups would be unwilling to support a nugatory group.

I remain considerate to others, Daphne. If the women members of such groups do not want a man to join - then so be it. I can respect that decision and from the previous thread on this subject, I am quite content with the support that I have received from fellow sufferers - both male and female on this forum. I do not wish to be drawn into an argument any further on this subject - it is little more than detrimental and emotive.

Daphne, I sincerely wish you all the best and if you are a support group organiser - keep up the good work.

Regards Brian

Again Daphne Hi Daphne

I’m afraid that isn’t the way it reads to me. Again you say “My view is that I don’t feel that mixed sex breast cancer support groups particularly benefit either men or women and might actually reduce the benefits for women”

Adding the last part of that makes little difference to the first lines. I consider myself to be a feminist, I don’t quite know when this happened to me but I have , in my memory, always been a feminist.

To say that I want to attend a group of BC suffererd just because I want an ego trip, or that I would be upset if I wasn’t allowed to go,is rubbish.

You don’t know me and yet you have made your mind up about me with a few generalities and taken litrtle note of how I responded to your last post.

I reiterate, if I wasn’t a valued member of the group I attend, then I would have left long ago. I’m sad too that BC affects many more women than men but it does. There’s nothing much I can do about that. But in my life I have chosen to do some work for tohers who have breast cancer, not only men, and I think I do a pretty good job of it.

When you mention Brian’s TV slot you failed to realise that the language used to describe “women’s” work is more related to the 19560’s that to the 21st century. That too needs changing. What you dind’t mention were the other statements in the literature I was given about taking in front fastening nighties to the hospital; taking makeup to the hosptial to cheer me up and other such things. It was quite wrong to have been given that information. It was given only because there was nothing else to be given. For the majority of men with BC it was of little use. The average age for a man with BC is over 70 and to be confronted by such text wowuld have been the biggest horror for them. Thankfully that has been changed.

Neither do I see many groups around that have women in them them who are suffering from a range of cancers. Men cannot get ovarian or cervical cancer, women can’t get testicular or prostate cancer. BUT both men and women can get breast cancer. I can’t quite get to grips with your argument to keep BC sufferers apart. It almost beggars belief.

What do I bring to a group? I bring myself, my life experiences, my training as a teacher and counsellor and, above all, my experience as a BC sufferer. Surely that’s enough to bring to a group?

Are the other members better off with me there? Yes, I think they are because I can do many things for them and they can do many things for me.

I don’t mind people being outspoken Daphne. I do mind people being opinionated to the extreme. But that’s the good news here; I don’t think your opinions about this would be the majority position. I think the majority of others would have an understanding and compassion for my position and be more than willing to help me, even if it meant attending their group.


well, nearly the last word Hi Brian, I understand your point of view and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Despite my reservations, I don’t know how well or not a mixed-sex breast cancer support group would work unless I went to one.

I don’t want to get into an argument with you or any other men (or women) over this. I just wanted to state my views and I have so I’ll say no more.

I wish you all the best as well and keep up your good work too.


Dont start something you dont finish All
Looks as though I am a little late for the Party – but here goes¦.

Daphne why do you set up an opinion then run away before its complete – you are no more wiser now, than you were when you first posted.

My argument for a mixed group would be this – last year I participated in Breast Cancer Fashion shows in both the Kirklees and Calderdale area’s – being the only man I was an oddity so to speak – as the time went on and the women got to know me better – remember this is the first time most of the ladies had met a man who had had BC. Questions started to be asked of how the operation ~ chemo ~ radiotherapies had affected me. I am an open sort of guy – I am not embarrassed by any subject – it soon turned to the intimate side of things and they were very sad that I can no longer make love to my wife in the same way we used to. How would you feel Daphne if you had no sex life?
The ladies were amazed too that I had to go through Hot Flushes – Sleepless nights and such. They asked how I coped with everything – Daphne I just get on with it.

We soon got round too to swapping operation stories and showing scars – yes showing each others scars – I was very proud to be accepted into the circle of Ladies not as a Man but just another Breast Cancer sufferer. In fact we used to joke about things too – I remember one lady who had had a double mastectomy saying she felt like a chicken – when she showed us all – I said to her that she Looked like a chicken – we all had a good laugh.
What I am trying to say is just because you don’t like to be in a mixed group – a lot of women are quite happy and learn from them too.
Therefore the answer to your question what can be gained from mixed support groups I can say ENLIGHTENMENT – wouldn’t you agree Daphne?

Also remember the support groups are aimed at people who don’t work – all the meetings in my area are run through the day – when I work 8am to 5pm – these meetings are no good to me.

I would like to finish by saying this – Willy, Brian and myself have all had Breast Cancer – we have all had different treatment – we have all suffered different side affects – it appears that women all get the same – if she has that then so have I – if this happened to me – then its going to happen to her and so on.
Try being Shepard’s instead of Sheep – we are all individuals – lets be treated that way instead of, this works for them so it should work for you.

All we are trying to do is bring more awareness so that more men are in the know that Breast Cancer can affect them – when we were diagnosed there was hardly any information for men – now its different – I am proud of the work the men on this site have done & stuck together – we cant go to the Breast Clinic and meet other men – we are so few and far between, this is the only way we can meet (so to speak). We have contributed to the booklets, to forums etc. I myself am a member of the Campaign Panel – Waiting to be trained as a Volunteer for BCC (to happen in March).

The final word is – Daphne what have you done for Breast Cancer Care?

Cheers David W

Now, Now David, don’t start generalising There are plenty of male sheep [even if they do like to think of themselves as rams :)], as well as female sheep.

With a big grin



Support groups for women The arguments for women only support groups are not simply about cancer.

There is a wealth of feminist research which shows that women only support groups on a range of issues…everything from domestic violence to assertion training, are an invaluable source of support for women. Many women find themselves silenced in mixed groups and it has been shown that the dynamics of conversation change between women when men are present. When men occupy women’s space they often dominate, and women feel unable to speak or find their own voices. Women talk to each other differently when men are not present, and many women do not feel safe to express their feelings in mixed groups for all kinds of cultural reasons. Women are better listeners, better at turn taking in discussion and conversation.

When it comes to breast cancer I think there are many women who just would not feel safe in a mixed group. I think particularly, but not only, of older women and women from some ethnic minority groups. This has nothing to do with the intentions of men which may be honourable and good hearted. It has everything to do with the experience of being a woman with breast cancer . Our experiences are of course all very different (by the way David not all of us have hormonal tretaments, and not all of us get menopausal side effects) but the shared experience of being a woman with breast cancer is what draws women to support groups. I think the dynamic changes when men are present…not necessarily for the worse, but it changes.

I have not attended any face to face support groups. I have found my own support through these forums and through individual counselling. I’d love to find a lesbian support group but even though I live in London where you’d expect there might be one my search has so far drawn a blank. There are lots of issues to do with sexuality and cancer that I experience as a lesbian that I have no wish to compare notes on with either men or heterosexual women.

I think it must be for each support group to decide whether it wants to be mixed or single sex. Women only groups have enabled many women to gain strength from the shared stories of other women…they are a rich resource which must not be lost.

Finally…thank you Daphne for raising this issue…I think you have done so in a very respectful way and I do agree with you.

Best wsihes


Dissipating Tensions Hi Jane

I’m sorry Jane but this platform has a very specific purpose; to support those with and those affected by breast cancer. Your illustrations and examples of other types of support groups for women have no place here that I can see and cannot be comparable. That is not to say that they are not needed out of necessity because of on-going violence or oppression. Neither is the uptake – or the need to uptake – of assertiveness training a women only domain that I know of.

And yet, in contemplating this again, I can see that I may have fallen into the old “get annoyed easily trap that I always seem to fall into. I sometimes tell my students to assume nothing and yet I don’t always follow my words. I might have wrongly assumed that the commonality of breast cancer, and all the suffering that it brings, might immediately create a situation where gender issues would take second place to old type thinking. That, indeed, might not be the case and I apologise if my earlier postings were “disrespectful to anyone.

I think that I and then other men who post here have still got to do the basics before we get on to something complicated like being members of a mixed sex support group for breast cancer. We have to convince all others that we are just like them, with the same disease, the same fears and upsets and, yes, that leads us into the realms of discussing bodies and other bits of our bodies that many of us would be unused to discussing, not even with our partners. And, yes, I can see that a man entering a place where women have just about come to the decision about talking about these things to other women would not be happy about it.

But there is another way to think about it. Why not use this intermingling of experience across the genders to create an educationally sound experience that satisfies both men and women?

I do agree that there is evidence to suggest that women’s voices are suppressed when men are amongst them. Yet other evidence suggests that that is changing quite rapidly. I can never conceive of a time when men would outnumber women in a support group for breast cancer though. This breast cancer thing is all about being vulnerable I think and seeking out some solace is a good occupation in such times. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were lesbian women support groups for breast cancer? I feel for you when you cannot find that solace of a common group and you have made it clear that you make do with coming here.

I don’t want to cause tensions when I write here, I want to be supported and give support. That’s the commonality of what I want. But I also want to make it clear that us men are here and we need to have a voice. Women have been here for a lot longer and that’s quite sad because men have been getting breast cancer just as long as women have.

My intentions are honourable and goodhearted not, as you say “which might be honourable and goodhearted.

Take care.


Shocked and Saddened! I have just read these posts and to discover that another ‘sufferer’ (hate that word) was turned down by 3 support groups is appalling, although I would hope that you may have been more successful Brian if you had approached them, rather than your wife on their behalf.

I really do not have a problem with the behaviour of men in groups that are predominantly female. I have commonly come across these in the past in playgroups and mother & toddler groups. The men were no problem at all and could discuss any issues that arose - clearly they were not as potentially intimate. I had a huge problem with the behaviour of some of the other women, they would fawn, elevate the men, - (patronise them actually), and generally adopt a submissive pose, or were incapable of behaving as an adult in their company. They are and were responsible for their own behaviour - as are we.

Clearly there are issues within BC which are of an intensely personal nature, which actually I wouldn’t wish to share with many men or women. One shares with those people that you recognise are kindred spirits whatever their gender.

Daphne how awful if I were to be asked on joining a BC group ‘what do I bring to it’? and ‘what would I get from it’?. Should we ask all those currently in support groups those questions and evict those who don’t come up with a satisfactory answer, or those who diminish the support experience for other women (there are I believe a few of those - as there are in every group).

I think to suggest that any upset, arising from such horrendous rejection from support groups, when you have been diagnosed with a disease which is it itself isolating is merely a blow to the male ego is really quite shocking. I think your interpretation may be flawed here.

Why should men join other cancer groups when they have breast cancer? How bizarre is that.

This is 2006 and actually I would implore all parties to continue with this thread and at least try and explore and provide answers to issues, because I do feel this is important, and although I appreciate your intentions Bill, I do not think you should dissapate tensions - I believe these should be worked through if this is to be of any value at all. Otherwise we could all be raising something controversial, sit back, watch the fireworks and walk away and achieve nothing.


All join together… I’ve not yet investigated support groups, but I would want to be part of one that invited everyone, family, partners, people with cancer whatever their sex. I’m quite happy to talk freely in front of anyone. I would expect most groups to be like that.

However… I can see the place for one/a minority of groups to be single sex, Especially here in Brum where there is such a large ethnic population. There are plenty of women who would not be able to feel able to discuss issues relating to breasts in front of men.

I would have thought tho that the emphasis should be on justifying the need for this type of single sex group, rather than most groups having to justify letting men in.

I was going to say come on and join us, blokes. But that’s silly, 'cos you are us. (If you get what I mean)

Hope that doesn’t sound too fence sitting…


Message for Celeste & Bweeps Celeste, you say “how awful if I were to be asked on joining a BC group ‘what do I bring to it’? and ‘what would I get from it’”. I didn’t suggest that question should be asked of anyone (male or female), wanting to join a support group. I addressed the question specifically to the men on this forum to understand what advantages they thought their membership of breast cancer support groups brought the women.

The reason I asked the question is because I think there are benefits to men joining these groups, but I think the presence of men at them can provide a much less satisfactory experience for the women for the reasons outlined by JaneRA & me.

Yes, it is 2006, but I think mixed-sex breast cancer support groups are a step too far (unless the women actively want them to be mixed). There is a danger that women will be made to feel that they should go along with mixed-sex support groups for the sake of political correctness even if they don’t believe they are right for them. How is that right and supportive to women? I believe many women do not want mixed support groups - hence Brian’s experience. It’s not PC 30 years after equal pay legislation that many women still get paid less than men for doing the same work - let’s get that fixed (oh, but hell will probably freeze before that happens) before we get unduly upset about women with breast cancer not wanting men at their support groups, especially when no research has been done (as far as I’m aware) to prove whether or not mixed-sex breast cancer support groups are definitely a good thing for both men and women. I would want to see a proper academic study to prove that mixed-sex support groups are good for men and at least as good for women as a female only support group before I give any ground on this.

Bweeps, you advocate “open to all” support groups and want to join one. I hope you find what you are looking for. I go to support groups spcifically to talk to women who have had cancer themselves. I don’t want to talk to their family or partners about it. There are separate support groups for families, if they need it.

Let me give you a real example of why “open to all” is not a good thing. The first time I went to a support group meeting, the women talked about the time “that man” used to come. The group was set up by a breast cancer nurse so that women with breast cancer could provide emotional support to each other. A woman started to come to the meetings and brought her husband with her. As I understand it, the husband started to dominate the meetings and tried to get the women to start fundraising, which they didn’t want to do, though it seems they were too nice to tell him (why are women often “too nice” to tell men what they really think?)

The husband & wife continued coming to the meetings for about a year and, as far as I can tell, it was a pretty unsatisfactory for everyone. The women wanted to support each other emotionally but felt restricted by the presence of the man and the man was frustrated because his fundraising ideas were not enthusiastically received. Eventually he and his wife stopped going and the group reverted to being an emotional support group for women.

I’m sure the husband wanted to be there for good reasons - supporting his wife, wanting to feel he could do something to support breast cancer research & treatment, but seems to have turned out an unsatisfactory experience for himself and, more importantly, his wife. She would probably have got much more out of it if she’d gone on her own.

A common theme in all these discussions is that breast cancer is “genderless” and the issues for men and women are the same. Well it isn’t genderless because it’s predominantly a female disease and the issues for men and women aren’t all the same. Not even the all the risk factors are the same (breastfeeding, start of menarche, childbearing history).

Though I accept there are common breast cancer issues for men & women, many are female specific (effect on childbearing, female fertility, female menopause, female sexuality) therefore, considering these differences I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to suggest that men should be using other types of cancer support groups to get their support if there isn’t a mixed-sex support group available to them where the women are prepared to discuss the female specific issues of breast cancer with and in front of men. If the women don’t want to deal with female aspects of breast cancer in front of men and, for that reason, don’t wish to include men in their support groups, why is that “horrendous rejection”. Making them welcome men if they don’t want to means that they may well go home leaving much that they wanted to discuss unsaid. The case for some academic research on support groups grows stronger the more I think about it.

I shall post some more about this in due course. Celeste, let’s see if I can shock you some more.

So much for the last word I’d just like to address one statement that was made - “I might have had more sucess if i had approached the Support Groups myself” - I’d like to think that was true, however, my wife took action because I didn’t feel confident enough at the time. Simply and honestly because I was aware that men are in the minority and I feared being rejected. It took my wife 4 months after approaching the Support Groups to tell me that she had and that probably says more about my state of mind at the time than anything else, but in the mean time I found David and Bill on this forum and they helped me enormously, because they had been through the exact same thing that I had. We something in common and it wasn’t gender - it was breast cancer.

Just one question sits in my mind - "Is it right to exclude men and deny them support totally because they may(or may not) make a women member of the group uncomfortable and detract from, but not prevent her support?

I may be wrong here, but I would deem it human nature that should a sensitive subject need to be discussed - that person would approach a kindred spirit within the group rather than discuss it in open forum. If they do discuss it in open forum, I doubt very much that it matters whether a man is there or not.

I sympathise with Daphnes story about the husband who decided to try and motivate towards fund raising, where this was not wanted. But why oh why wasn’t his wife told if the group leader couldn’t bring herself to tell the husband? Surely the focus of the group should have been outlined at the very start.