Breast Cancer in men

Experiences of having tests and getting the results

Once a man has seen his GP about any symptoms which could indicate that he might have breast cancer, further tests in a hospital are needed before a definite diagnosis can be made. The tests which help to diagnose breast cancer include a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a fine needle or core biopsy. People will undergo several tests before a diagnosis can be made (including a clinical examination, imaging and a core biopsy). Once a definite diagnosis of breast cancer has been made, more tests are needed to help plan treatment and to check whether the cancer has spread.

Some hospitals run a ‘one-stop clinic’ for investigating breast symptoms where all of the first diagnostic tests are done and the results are given on the same day. In other hospitals, a further appointment will be made to get the test results. After a physical examination, often the first test that people have is a mammogram or an ultrasound scan. A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast tissue which is taken by a radiographer. The breast tissue is compressed between two x-ray plates and images are taken from different angles.
An ultrasound scan may be done to get a different type of picture of the breast tissue, or it might be used to help the doctor to see where a lump is so that a sample of cells or a piece of breast tissue can be taken to look at under a microscope (a biopsy). A biopsy on a breast lump may be done either using a fine needle to draw off a sample of cells (Fine needle aspiration) or using a larger needle to obtain a small amount of the tissue (core biopsy). More information on these tests can be found in our resources section.
Some men found it helpful or interesting to see the images from the mammograms and ultrasounds. The atmosphere whilst the radiologist was doing the tests sometimes gave the men an understanding that all was not well.
A core biopsy or a fine needle aspiration biopsy can be uncomfortable or painful, although often a local anaesthetic is applied. These tests can lead to some bruising afterwards.
Very often when men were at the hospital for their outpatient appointments and for their initial tests, they were the only man in a waiting room full of female patients, although some of the women had their husbands or other male family members or friends with them (see also ‘Experiences as a man in different breast cancer treatment settings’). It was not unusual for the men to be ‘pioneer’ patients in their hospital, and most of them said that they had been the first man with breast cancer that their medical team had treated or done diagnostic tests for breast cancer on.  
If men were not able to get a definite diagnosis on the same day as their tests, they could have a difficult and worrying time whilst they were waiting for their results, especially if they were called back for further tests.
It is often recommended that people should take someone with them when they are getting results from their tests. However, if people are not expecting to get bad news they sometimes choose to go on their own. David, who had had various lumps and bumps on his body before which had all been benign, was not expecting to receive bad news about his breast lump and so went to the clinic on his own.
One or two of the men had a recurrence of their breast cancer and they were able to compare their experiences of the first and second time they went through tests and treatment. Michael commented on how much things had moved forward in the eight years between his first and second diagnoses.


Last reviewed October 2013.

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