Male breast cancer: Mark's story

Mark is one of the 1000 Australian men in a lifetime to develop male breast cancer.

The 47 year-old father of three young children had no relevant family history and felt fit and healthy when he was diagnosed in 2012.

“When I tell other men, they are incredulous, they have no idea men can get it,” says Mark.

“I’m sure they think, ‘Are you a bit of a girl?’ or ‘Have you been taking hormones’ ’ but I have thick skin,” he says. 

But while rare, about 145 Australian men are expected to be diagnosed with male breast cancer in 2015.

For Mark it presented as a painful lump behind his right nipple which he dismissed as scar tissue from a childhood injury.

Eventually at a routine check up he asked the doctor to examine it. After a series of tests – it was revealed Mark had a ductal carcinoma in situ, or abnormal cells in the lining of a duct in his breast tissue.

“The in situ part is good, but all you really hear is the cancer word,” says Mark.

Mark had to tell his wife and three young children he had breast cancer.

While his wife vowed they would get through it together, his eldest feared he was going to die, and his youngest two were too little to understand preferring to watch TV or play computer games.
man walking kids to school
After getting two conflicting medical opinions Mark made the brave decision to have a mastectomy, and a surgeon successfully removed a 16mm tumour and four lymph nodes.

Mark’s surgeon pronounced him “cured” at his first post-operative check up and he didn’t need any chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormonal therapy.
 
But he still lives with the fear of a reoccurrence and continues to get regular checks.
 
Mark spoke out about his experience in the hope it raises awareness about breast cancer in men and encourages others to see a doctor if something isn’t right.
 
 “I am very open about the fact I’ve had breast cancer,” he says.
 
The National Breast Cancer Foundation says the most common symptom of male breast Cancer is a lump close to the nipple.
 
“The main thing I say is if you take quick action, you have a very good chance of survival,” says Mark.
 
“It’s really important to see a doctor as soon as a man notices changes to the nipple or surrounding tissue.”

At Bupa, we’ve teamed up with the McGrath Foundation to support breast cancer awareness and the work of McGrath Breast Care Nurses.

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