'Men get breast cancer too': Male patients open up about fighting the disease
A group of men have opened up about being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Often thought of as a “female disease”, one in seven women in the UK develop the condition at some point in their life.
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Many may not realise, however, around 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
A lack of awareness means the male death rate is disproportionately high, with 80 (21%) men dying from the disease every 12 months.
‘I thought there always had to be a lump’
Andy Manson, from Reading, suspected something was wrong when he developed a stabbing pain in his left nipple that had not eased several months later.
“It was my wife Michelle who forced me to go to the doctor,” he said.
Manson’s GP referred him to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
“[That] was my first inkling something was wrong,” he said.
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“I was aware at the time men could get breast cancer; I knew it existed, but I didn’t know what to check for.
“I had no lump which I could feel, so at the time, I ruled it out. I thought there always had to be a lump.”
Manson was eventually diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes.
“When I got my diagnosis, it’s like the cliché, you never expect it to be you,” he said.
‘I nearly fainted’ when diagnosed
Amrik Rhall’s girlfriend Shirelle was the first to notice a lump on his chest and insisted he get it checked out.
“I was able to feel it myself, but I decided it was probably nothing to worry about,” he said.
“Shirelle wasn’t happy to just forget about it. Undeterred, she wasted no time in booking a doctor’s appointment for me.
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“Despite my objections to going, I eventually relented.”
His GP said he was 90% sure the lump was a cyst, but sent Rhall for a scan and biopsy to be safe.
Rhall, from Leeds, was later diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
“I was 100% not expecting the result I received one week later; I nearly fainted,” he said.
‘I didn’t have a clue men could get breast cancer’
Dave Gill, from Dorset, noticed his chest was sore while in Thailand for his daughter’s wedding.
“I spent a lot of time driving around and found the car seat belt was rubbing on my chest and making it sore,” he said.
“I found a small lump next to my left nipple and [my wife Kalaya and I] assumed it was probably a blocked cyst”.
Once back in the UK, Gill saw his GP and a specialist at Poole General Hospital.
Both medics agreed it was likely a cyst, but arranged for Gill to have a minor operation to remove it regardless.
“I was wheeled out of the theatre and the surgeon told me she had found a small tumour and had just sewn me back up again,” he said.
Gill was told the cancer had been stage two.
“Surprised is an understatement,” he said.
“I didn’t have a clue men could get breast cancer and it hadn’t even been mentioned to me at all as being a possibility before this point.
“I had been treated for minor skin cancers for years, so I wasn’t frightened by the concept of having cancer.
“It was breast cancer that scrambled my mind, how could I have it?”
Manson, Rhall and Gill make up just a few of the male patients who are working with the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk on its “Men get breast cancer too” campaign.
By sharing their experiences, they hope to raise awareness of the disease in men so others know to regularly check their chest.
Several of the men were due to take part in the overnight walking challenge MoonWalk London 2020 in May. The event had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Male breast cancer: Symptoms, causes and treatments
Men have a small amount of breast tissue, where tumours can develop.
The most common symptom of male breast cancer is a painless lump in the chest area.
Some also develop discharge, possibly blood-stained, that comes out of the nipple without it being squeezed.
A tender or inverted nipple is another symptom, along with sores in the chest area and swelling, which may also arise in the lymph nodes under the arm.
Although the causes of male breast cancer are unclear, it is more common in men over 60.
All men have a small amount of the “female hormone” oestrogen, however, higher than normal levels has been linked to the disease.
This may come about through obesity, liver damage or genetic conditions like Klinefelter’s syndrome.
Men who have had radiotherapy to the chest, for example to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, may also have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
A family history of the disease may also cause a man to inherit genes that boost his odds.
Like with women, diagnosis usually involves a breast examination, along with a scan or biopsy.
Treatment may include surgery, hormone therapy, radiotherapy or chemo.