Purpose: This article reports the first United Kingdom study to examine the prevalence of psychological distress in men with breast cancer and the factors associated with increased distress.
Patients and methods: One hundred and sixty-one men with breast cancer completed a cross-sectional questionnaire that included measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms, cancer-specific distress, body image, coping, information and support needs, and clinical and demographic variables.
Results: Clinical levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms were reported by 6% and 1% of men, respectively, while 23% reported high levels of cancer-specific distress. Anxiety was most strongly associated with avoidance coping and fear and uncertainty about the future (42% of the variance in anxiety scores, P < .001). Depressive symptoms were associated with altered body image (35% of the variance, P < .001). Body image, avoidance coping, referral to the study by a clinician, fear and uncertainty, and wanting to receive more gender-specific information together explained 51% of the variance in cancer-related distress (P < .001). Clinical and demographic factors did not account for a significant proportion of the variance in any of the distress measures.
Conclusion: Although the prevalence of clinical anxiety and depressive symptoms were low in this sample, almost a quarter of men experienced traumatic stress symptoms specific to breast cancer. Potential risk factors for distress include the use of avoidant coping strategies, negative body image, feelings of fear and uncertainty in relation to breast cancer, and unmet information needs. Suggestions are made for improving the information and support available to men with breast cancer.