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Tens of thousands of men feel emasculated because of cancer, new research shows

*Macmillan Cancer Support launches joint campaign with the building and construction sector aimed at providing support to men who need it*

  • 20% of men with cancer experienced a loss of masculinity while going through treatment
  • 25% of men with cancer who are in a relationship and rarely or never talk to their spouse about their feelings in relation to their cancer say this is because they want them to think they can “handle it”
  • 17% of men with cancer say they feel like “less of a man” since diagnosis

New research, released today by Macmillan Cancer Support, reveals that one in five men (20%) with cancer experienced a loss of masculinity while going through their treatment – the equivalent to an estimated 180,000 men in the UK, and around one in six (17%) say they feel like less of a man since they were diagnosed. To combat these, and other issues around male cancer, Macmillan is launching a campaign with the building and construction industry, bringing cancer support to men from the sector.

Macmillan say that talking is an important part of dealing with cancer, yet around half of men with cancer who are in a relationship (49%) rarely or never talk to their partner about their feelings or emotions in relation to cancer. Of these men, a quarter (25%) say this is because “they want them to think they can handle it”. A similar number (23%) say they keep their concerns private from their spouse or partner because “they don’t want to become someone who is pitied.”

The new research, conducted by YouGov and including more than 800 men with cancer, also suggests that many men with cancer are facing an emotional burden following their diagnosis, with almost half (49%) of men surveyed reporting anxiety while they were going through treatment, and one in four (25%) experiencing feelings of depression.

The research also reveals that many men still feel pressured to fulfil traditional ‘male’ roles at work and at home. For men, factors such as being able to provide for their family (49% of men with cancer said this was important to their identity as a man before their diagnosis), physical strength (34%) and having a successful career (33%), were important aspects of their identity, prior to a cancer diagnosis. Something that a cancer diagnosis can take away either temporarily, or permanently.

A second survey conducted by Toluna UK, of 536 men from the building and construction industry reveals that almost two in five men (38%) from the sector who report being in good health believe that as a man it is important to keep emotions in check so others view them as strong. This survey also reveals that almost one in five men (18%) who work in the industry and have a serious illness such as cancer, feel like less of a man since being diagnosed.

Antoine Henningham, 39, is showroom Manager at Benchmarx Kitchens & Joinery in London and was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007. He says: “When I was diagnosed, I just shut down. I was fortunate to have my Aunt there because when I heard the ‘C’ word I took nothing in. While I was going through treatment I saw myself as vulnerable and my physical appearance deteriorated, and I wasn’t as open as I should have been because I thought people would view me differently, and treat me differently, but they didn’t. Lots of people have been through cancer and are accepting. It helps to talk and my family helped me stay positive and it was nice to have people to bounce stuff off. Macmillan were really helpful emotionally and financially, they helped me understand cancer and my situation, and appreciate what I was going through.”

Today, Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on men to seek the support they need. Senior Macmillan Information Nurse John Newlands says, “Cancer can affect men in ways they didn’t expect, like a loss of masculinity and the feeling that you are losing who you are, but a life with cancer is still a life. By 2020, almost one in two people will get cancer at some point in their lives, and with more and more people living longer after cancer, we want people to have a better understanding of the reality of cancer diagnosis and to find the support they need.”

Because we know many men don’t want to talk about their health, Macmillan Cancer Support is starting the conversation by bringing together six of its partners from the construction sector: Benchmarx Kitchens & Joinery, ISG Plc, Selco Builders Warehouse, Topps Tiles, Travis Perkins, and Wolseley UK, to form the ‘Construction Cancer Coalition’. Through this campaign, Macmillan hopes to reach and empower men from the sector and beyond to take control of their health and seek the support they need.

For more information about the campaign and the support services Macmillan Cancer Support is offering, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/saytheword

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