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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Man's Guide to Breast Cancer

Author John W. Anderson shares insights on how men can stand by women with breast cancer.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

John W. Anderson has stood by his mother, wife, sister, and his mom’s closest friend as they battled breast cancer. His new book, Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men, published in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, details these experience, and all that he learned by being on the frontlines of this battle with four of the most important women in his life.

From when to stay quiet, shave your head, or grab a beer with a buddy to get out of what he dubs "Cancerland," Anderson spoke to WebMD about how men can help the women they love face breast cancer.

Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls

When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and advice from women who know what breast cancer is like firsthand.

  • Zunilda Guzman, 39, had both breasts and ovaries removed after learning she had breast cancer and a high-risk gene.
  • Pamela Cerceo, 51, had both breasts removed even though she didn’t have breast cancer.
  • Diane Morgan, 71, offers advice on what friends should and shouldn't do when someone has breast cancer.
  • Jenee Bobbora, 39, chose not to have breast reconstruction after her mastectomy.
  • Tammy Joyner, 49, talks about telling her sons she had breast cancer.

Read more stories: 


Here’s what he had to say:

Why write a book about breast cancer for men?

“I had written a screenplay that became a Lifetime movie called Four Extraordinary Women, and realized that this really shouldn’t be the end. The Lifetime network is targeted for women, so a lot of guys wouldn’t see the movie. There are few books about what men should do when a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized I could write a book that targets all men and all different types of relationships – mothers, wives, sisters, and friends.

Your wife started breast cancer treatment the same day your mom died from the disease. How did you feel that day?

It was awful. Breast cancer has always had a weird synchronicity for me. My dad had my mom’s funeral on St. Patrick's Day, and 21 years later, I found out that they were publishing this book on that same date.

What did you do to express solidarity when your wife began treatment for breast cancer?

We had a head shaving party when my wife started to lose her hair from chemotherapy. I went hairless, and then let it grow back along with hers. For my sister, I mohawked my hair.

What is the best piece of advice you can give a man who is watching a loved one battle breast cancer?

Listen to her. Hear what her needs and wants are and ask how you can help. Do not force your agenda on her. React, don’t act. If she shuts you out, let time take its course. She is processing and dealing with heavy stuff. Show patience and humility. She is the commander-in-chief.

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