Breast Cancer in men

Going to the GP and being referred to hospital

After noticing a symptom, people can find it difficult to decide whether they think it is something that is serious enough to take straight to a doctor. In the case of breast cancer (and other cancers), further tests in a hospital are needed before a diagnosis can be made, and breast cancer is more treatable the earlier it is diagnosed. The tests used to determine whether someone has breast cancer include a mammogram, an ultrasound, a needle biopsy or another type of biopsy. Once a definite diagnosis of breast cancer has been made, more tests may be needed to check whether the cancer has spread and to help the doctors to decide exactly which course of treatment to recommend (see Experiences of having tests and getting the results).

Because breast cancer is a very rare disease in men, many men did not know that their symptoms could be a sign of breast cancer (see Men’s awareness of breast cancer before their diagnosis). Not surprisingly, therefore, some men waited for some time before they went to see a doctor, sometimes several months, and some said that they only went to their GP after being encouraged to go by their wife.
Other family members, particularly daughters, had also helped to encourage men to go to their doctor once they realised that they had breast cancer symptoms. One man said his daughter noticed something was wrong with his nipple when he was gardening bare-chested in the sun. Occasionally, other family members were aware that men could get breast cancer and encouraged men to visit their GP.
However, some of the men did not wait or need encouragement from other people to go to the doctor. They went to see their GP as soon as they could after they noticed their breast symptoms.
Several men didn’t make a special trip to the doctor about their breast symptoms; they only brought their symptoms to the doctor’s notice whilst they were seeing a nurse or a doctor for something else, typically quite some time after they first noticed their symptoms.
 
Mostly, GPs had immediately taken the men’s symptoms seriously and responded by referring the men to a hospital outpatient appointment for a specialist opinion and further tests.

Sometimes the doctor had given an indication that he or she thought that something might be wrong, whilst other times they suggested getting a test to be ‘on the safe side’. In just a few cases, men had had to argue with their doctor that they needed a hospital appointment to check whether there was something seriously wrong.


Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.

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