Women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) often present to the health care system at advanced stages of breast cancer (BC), leading to poor outcomes. A lack of BC awareness and affordability issues are proposed as contributors to delayed presentation. In many areas of the world, however, women lack the autonomy to deal with their health needs due to restrictive gender norms. The role of gender norms has been relatively underexplored in the BC literature in LMICs and little is known about what men know about BC and how they are involved in women’s access to care. To better understand these factors, we conducted a qualitative descriptive study in South Africa. We interviewed 20 low-income Black men with current woman partners who had not experienced BC. Interviewees had limited knowledge and held specific misconceptions about BC symptoms and treatment. Cancer is not commonly discussed within their community and multiple barriers prevent them from reaching care. Interviewees described themselves as having a facilitative role in their partner’s access to health care, facets of which could inadvertently prevent their partners from autonomously seeking care. The findings point to the need to better consider the role of the male partner in BC awareness efforts in LMICs to facilitate prevention, earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Women in undeveloped countries are often not diagnosed with breast cancer until the disease is already very severe. Some of the reasons for this include a lack of awareness about breast cancer and difficulty affording the costs of health care or the costs of transportation to a hospital or clinic. In many areas of the world, women also do not have the freedom to respond to their own health needs without having a male family member involved. However, we do not know very much about how men may be involved in women’s health care. To better understand this, we conducted a research study in which we talked to 20 South African men about what they knew about breast cancer and how they are involved in their partner’s health care decisions. Through talking to them, we found out that many did not know about breast cancer or had inaccurate information about it. The men reported that people in their community do not often talk about cancer. The men described themselves as having a positive influence on their partner’s health care decisions, but some of the things they reported doing might stop their partners from being able to access health care independently. Overall, we think that campaigns to raise awareness of breast cancer should consider how women’s partners may be involved in their health care.

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