Supporting Women With Cancer Is Uncharted Territory for Many Men

Bill was a fishing acquaintance, outwardly a man’s man. A drover and farmer, now retired, he still talked rough. But one fishing day, looking out to sea, when his wife’s cancer came up, he showed me a rare vulnerable side. He shook a little as he told me how hopeless he felt trying to comfort and care for her.

Bill had never done any house work and felt like a failure, and failure he’d rather not face after a life built around expertise in the bush-riding, farming and fishing.

I got a brief glimpse into the ‘inside’ of this man and met him there with compassion-then it was gone and the hard man-hard talk returned.

Bill did not know of my background-he’d never asked. He did not know I’d facilitated groups of boys and men in prisons, the workplace and more recently in cancer groups. I just listened to Bill but in the listening something changed….

Family dynamics change significantly when a partner is diagnosed with cancer. If unacknowledged and left unspoken, this can be a source of stress. Care-givers have different needs to patients. Giving guidance and assistance to men as cancer care givers is specialised work. Many male care givers will need compassionate guidance in adapting to their new roles.

Key issues for attention are relationship changes and their dynamics, planning, authentic communication with partners, family and medical practitioners, researching treatment options, avoiding alt/med, who to believe, emotional resilience and avoiding burn-out, sense of failure, death, work issues, along with many other problems faced by male care-givers.

One of the issues for men is the ability to calmly but rationally discuss treatment options for their partner. More women than men have a leaning towards new age ideology which includes alternative cancer treatments. The people who promote alt/med know how to speak to the emotional heart of most women and their cancer cure material dominates the internet. This is an area of conflict for many couples.

There are two common approaches to cancer healing. One is grounded in science and pragmatic while the alt/med methods sell the emotional and sell certainty that most scientists would be reluctant to espouse. For example the web abounds with statements like – “Join the thousands of people who read my book and are free of cancer today as a result.” Or – Cancer Options: “The Surprising Power of Mother Nature!” Or – “Here is our nutritional advice for people looking for effective alternatives to Chemo & Radiotherapy!” (Promoting B17)

Such statements say what frightened cancer patients want to believe and so seemingly logical people are ‘hypnotised’ and thus make decisions from a trance-like state. Such people exhibit a ‘doe-eyed’ quality which is quite obvious to us in the industry. I caution patients to become more self aware and notice when they are making an emotionally driven decision rather than a rational one. With prior permission men can gently point this out to their partners when they ‘trance-out.’

I know the ‘C’ word and associated fear along with a desire to follow ‘nature wisdom’ is partly to blame for the emotional approach. Like many men I was influenced by my previous partner who was a ‘spiritual therapist.’ The desire to ‘please’ our partner can mean we investigate and even adopt much of their belief system. Once I may have made similar alt/med biased choices myself so I write this from a point of compassion and understanding for men whose partners are very convincing. Nevertheless this discussion is serious for it can be a matter of less pain/more pain, life or death!

Male partners need to learn how cancer works so they can address the ‘apparent’ certainty of the alt/med claims compared to more cautious claims from the medical profession

The great scientist Carl Sagan said – “Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence.” But sadly, despite the enthusiasm, at this point in time you will not get exceptional evidence from the alt/med cancer cure lobby.

Supporting women with cancer is ‘uncharted’ territory for many men…

Information About Breast Cancer Research

According to a number of medical professionals, their studies seem to indicate that breast cancer is the most prominent form of cancer in women in today’s world, proving to be second only to non-melanoma skin cancers. It is also the second leading form of cancer responsible for the number of cancer caused deaths in women.

Medical professionals have reported that their studies have shown that 1.3 million women are diagnosed on the average with breast cancer each year and on the average, one third of these women die from this affliction.

These medical professionals feel that their research has shown that while diet and proper exercise cannot prevent breast cancer in all cases, it does seem to lower the odds, which makes these methods both good offensive weapon against the onset of cancer and therefore ones well worth applying.

Medical studies also seem to show that there is a correlation between race and breast cancer. That is, a significant amount of black women seem more apt to get cancer than Caucasian women. This is being studied to determine the reason for this significant difference. Is it something to do with the amount of melanin in the body or is it something to do with the diet consumed? Is there a poverty level to which one group is subjected on the average more than another?

Another significant aspect of breast cancer which medical professionals feel that they have discovered is a genetic one. This cancer has been shown to run in families. If a person’s mother, grandmother or sibling was stricken with this cancer, then the odds are significantly higher that that person themselves may be stricken with it. A group calling themselves “Adoption Angels” see this as a very important reason for people separated from their biological family by adoption should have medical information even if they have nothing else that relates to their biological relatives.

Many people who are survivors of breast cancer along with their family members and friends, fight through fund raisers to raise money to help pay for this cancer research.

Many medical professionals feel that we have come a long way in the fight against breast cancer, but we haven’t come far enough. They are constantly researching, studying and seeking for answers. They search and they are joined by others as time passes, these others also searching. May we soon reach the end of the road, the place where research will no longer be necessary.

Concerns About Breast Cancer and Type 2 Diabetes

In 2006 191,410 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. That same year 40,820 women died from the disease. As you know, breast cancer is considered to be epidemic among women over age fifty. It is still not clear whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases your risk for this type of cancer.

Women who have survived cancer of the breast are more likely to get cancer on the opposite side, more than women who have never had cancer of the breast. According to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment July 2010, this increased risk is even higher for women with Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle USA looked at 934 women aged 40 to 79 with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The volunteers included 322 who had developed cancer on the opposite breast and 616 who had cancer of the breast for the first time. Women with Type 2 diabetes had more than twice the risk of developing a second breast cancer than did patients without diabetes. The authors concluded that diabetics who had cancer of the breast, should be examined for cancer of the opposite breast as well.

According to an article published June, 2010 in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology and Diabetes, breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women worldwide. As many as 16 per cent of elderly cancer of the breast patients also have a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Population studies overall show an increased risk of this cancer in diabetics. Insulin is thought by some to increase the risk, but metformin therapy might have some benefit.

The Mayo clinic lists several things women can do to help prevent cancer of the breast.

1. Limiting alcoholic beverages to one drink per day or no alcohol at all is recommended, since a link has been demonstrated

2. Due to an association between obesity and breast cancer, maintaining a healthy weight, especially after menopause, is another recommendation. Fatty tissue in women produces a female hormone called estrogen, and some scientists speculate that the increase in estrogen could be behind the increased risk.

3. Regular physical activity, which can help in achieving and maintaining a good body weight, can be helpful.

4. Limiting fat in your diet is likely to result in a decreased risk.

5. Hormone therapy (HRT) can increase the risk of breast cancer, so the benefits of hormone replacement therapy after menopause should be weighed against the possible risk.

6. Pesticides are similar to estrogen, so it’s best to keep clear of those.

7. Prolonged use of antibiotics can also raise the risk of breast cancer.

For the record, heart disease kills more women than breast cancer so where HRT is concerned it can:

  • definitely lower your cholesterol levels
  • lower your risk of heart disease and
  • reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and
  • stop bone loss

The main thing is to be vigilant for cancer of the breast. Insulin resistance which is also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer is also characteristic of Type 2 diabetes.