My Wife Has Breast Cancer: The Lived Experience of Arab Men

Semin Oncol Nurs. 2022 Aug;38(4):151307. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2022.151307. Epub 2022 Jun 7.


Objectives: Breast cancer is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity among women in Middle Eastern countries. In Bahrain, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death and first among women. Prior research has shown that Middle Eastern women will often delay seeking treatment for breast cancer and subsequently hide the diagnosis from friends and family. As a result, women rely heavily on their spouses for support and care. There is limited research on spouses' experience of breast cancer, especially in the Middle East. This study explored the lived experience of Arab men following their wives' diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in Bahrain.

Data sources: Data from semi-structured interviews with Arab men (n = 6) were analyzed using the interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA). Participants' wives had completed their treatment 3 to 6 months prior to the interviews.

Conclusion: Three main themes emerged: Perceptions of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, coping strategies, and impact on quality of life. Findings revealed that Arab men in Bahrain relied on family and friends for support and drew on religious beliefs to give them hope so they could better support their wives. Findings also highlighted the unique culturally related coping strategies used by Arab men. This study highlights the specific needs of Arab men following their wives' diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. Faith and beliefs were overwhelmingly a foundation for coping and support. Therefore, this must be considered within the health care service to improve support strategies for Arab patients and their spouses in treatment and care plans encompassing a holistic interprofessional, multidisciplinary, and communicative approaches including the need for culturally sensitive care pathways that are cognizant of the care needs through help-seeking and information-sharing throughout the illness. Nurses should provide the education and encourage open communication among the couple and their family.

Implications for nursing practice: Findings can be used by nurses and other health care professionals to provide better support and holistic care to Arab women with breast cancer and their spouses.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Coping; Husband; Interpretive phenomenology; Lived experience; Middle East.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Arabs
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Spouses*