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After going through treatment for breast cancer, Richard has committed to making more men aware of the risk, as well as pushing for more research into how breast cancer affects male patients.
When I first went to the GP with a lump under my left nipple, he told me it was probably only a cyst, and to come back if it didn’t go away. Well, being a man, I thought that meant everything was basically all right.
However, I eventually went back a couple of months later, and at that point I was referred to the cancer unit at my local hospital. I had a mammogram and a biopsy, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2015.
Just two months later, however, I was blue lighted to hospital with a pulmonary embolism.
I had to be taken off the tamoxifen straight away, and was on blood thinners for the following six months to reduce the risk of it happening again.
That incident got me thinking about my situation, and how men with breast cancer aren’t treated the same as women who present with symptoms.
Even at the GP, I wasn’t really told how serious it could be. In fact, I know a guy who was told exactly the same thing as me when he went to see the doctor, but he left it 15 months before going back for a second check-up. By the time he was diagnosed, his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, and he now lives with lymphoedema and has to wear a sleeve.
This also illustrates the need to act quickly. As with a lot of cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed the better the outcomes.
It could have been that my doctor hadn’t seen a case of male breast cancer before – because it is rare – but that just means that they need to be trained better.
And when you do finally get diagnosed and treated, the best a breast cancer oncologist can do is treat a man in the same way they treat a woman. But because there isn’t enough research on how these treatments affect men, we might be at risk of certain things that doctors aren’t aware of.
There were also no support resources for me when I was diagnosed. Fortunately, I took the news quite well. I was so laid back about it I was almost horizontal – but I know not everyone is.
Since I was diagnosed, I’ve been trying to raise awareness and broaden the conversation. Walk the Walk have been really good in helping with this, and have since acknowledged men as breast cancer patients at their events.
Walk the Walk have also hosted male breast cancer awareness events in which I’ve participated, including being interviewed on local radio stations.
Really, I just want more people to know about it. I want men to realise that they can get breast cancer, and – if they do – it's not because something is ‘wrong’ with them. We think of it as a woman’s disease, but it isn’t. It can affect anyone.
At the end of the day, everyone has breasts, and we all ought to know about what can happen with them.