The third man in his family to get breast cancer, Giles Cooper tells us why more men need to be aware of the disease. It’s not often you hear about men with breast cancer. But for Giles, it’s an all too familiar story.
When his father died from breast cancer in 2004, it was the start of an extraordinary chain of events that saw his uncle die from the disease two years later and Giles himself diagnosed last year.
"I didn’t have any idea that men could get breast cancer until my father was diagnosed,’ explains Giles. That lack of awareness is something the 53-year-old from Gloucestershire believes is true of many men."
"If I had a pound for every time someone corrected me when I tell them about my breast cancer I’d be a rich man. I think many men assume because they don’t have breasts they can’t get the disease – but that couldn’t be further from the truth."
With about 350 cases diagnosed every year, breast cancer is rare in men compared to women, but that shouldn’t stop men from checking themselves says Giles – who had a double mastectomy last year.
"I took the decision to have both breasts removed because I didn’t want the problem returning in a few years’ time. I found the lump in my right breast in time to do something about it. If I hadn’t been checking myself regularly or left it for a few months then I think the outcome could have been very different for me.
"I would encourage all men to be aware that breast cancer can affect them – and not just their wives, girlfriends, sisters or mums – whether they have a family history of it or not. Male breast cancer isn’t something to be embarrassed about."
A family history of breast cancer can be caused by a faulty gene that is passed down through generations, but genetic tests on Giles’ uncle found no fault in the BRCA genes – the genes more commonly associated with breast cancer. So the genetic cause behind his disease still remains a mystery to Giles and his family – wife Nicola, and their two children, Freddie and Lottie.
Giles now plans to have further tests done to find out more about his family’s genetic history.