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Ambiguity and uncertainty

Ambiguity and uncertainty: the ongoing concerns of male partners of women treated for breast cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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  • Alison Harrow (Lead / Corresponding author)
  • Mary Wells
  • Rosaline S. Barbour
  • Stuart Cable

Research units


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-356
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2008


As the prevalence of breast cancer increases, survival improves and short stay or outpatient care become the norm, greater numbers of men will be involved in providing care and support for their partners at home. This qualitative study explored the experiences of 26 male partners of women who had completed treatment for breast cancer. A questionnaire was developed in order to collect background information and to provide a pool for further qualitative sampling. One hundred and five questionnaires were distributed, 79 returned and 26 one-to-one interviews were conducted. While negotiating a role in their wives’ breast cancer experience the men attempted to find a balance between the ambiguity and uncertainty they experienced and their need to maintain normality. They described feeling ‘in limbo’ when expectations of being able to move on following their wives treatment were not fulfilled. An understanding of the ‘liminal’ experience of being a male partner of a woman with breast cancer may help health care professionals to address the ongoing difficulties men encounter. This is important as it is often the male partners who are called upon to provide continued care and support beyond the recognised treatment period.



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