Social support: gender differences in cancer patients in the United Kingdom

Cancer Nurs. Jan-Feb 2006;29(1):66-72. doi: 10.1097/00002820-200601000-00012.


Social support is an important aspect of psychological functioning during diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Gender has been found to influence support preferences, and previous research suggests that women are more likely to seek and utilize support by comparison to men. This qualitative study explores how patients perceive the support they receive. It also examines patient preferences and satisfaction with information and emotional support provided by staff. Eleven melanoma patients (6 men and 5 women) and 5 breast cancer patients participated in a semistructured interview. Thematic analysis suggests that gender is central to patients' satisfaction and preference for support. Whereas women expected staff to provide information and emotional support, men felt that emotional support from staff was inappropriate and perceived information as supportive in helping them deal with their emotions. Men were also more satisfied with support generally, and women perceived staff to have less time to provide support. Breast cancer patients were more satisfied with access to and the nature of support available to them. Findings suggest that female melanoma patients would benefit from similar services. Meeting the support needs of men appears less clear. If support were available as part of a structured care plan, it is possible that men would also utilize support. Future research is required to gain greater understanding of men's support needs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Empathy
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / psychology*
  • Men / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women / psychology*