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.
Roy describes what it is like to have a mammogram as a man.
And you’re just saying there about, you know, it being easier to find because you were a man and didn’t have a lot of breast tissue?
BT explains that the mammogram is uncomfortable but not painful.
They did one-
David W was sent to a general surgery clinic. When they heard his lump was in the breast, he was...
So… went for the… on to the clinic, it were just a general surgery clinic, for them to have a look and I just, you know, mentioned that it was in the breast area and then he just looked and he just said “it’s not really – if you’d have been a woman and you developed a breast, that lump would be well underneath and nowhere near the breast anyway, so… but we’ll have it looked at” and he just felt around a little bit and went “mmm… I think we’ll have a scan on it”, you know, ultrasound. So they did an ultrasound and… bit of a jokey guy, I’m watching this little black blotch shape on the… I said is that… “Can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl?”, so we had a joke about that. And they went “mmm…” and they brought this picture of the thing on the screen. Nothing mentioned, and I didn’t know that, you know, as I say, cancer was nowhere in my thoughts cos I didn’t even know that men could get cancer. So from then on, I mean, it was like ten, eleven weeks before I got to the hospital, but once the pictures had started coming up, everything seemed to go into overdrive then. And from, say, going for the scan, we had a mammogram on… again, laughing, joke, said, “You won’t get my little things in” but, “Oh yeah, we can”. So we had a mammogram and then it were… because we’re based in [city], and [hospital] and another [hospital] are the same, or more or less the same health authority, it was a case, can you get to [hospital] for a biopsy? You know, we want to have a look at this… this thing going on. So I said yeah, when are we talking about? And this were, like, Monday. Can you get there for Wednesday? Yeah, yeah, fine, no problem. So as I said, made my way to the clinic in [hospital] which happened to be a breast clinic, and then walking round there, looking for a… “Well, what you doing? This is breast clinic?” You know? I said well, “I’ve been summoned”, I showed my papers, they went “oh, yeah”. “Come for a biopsy”. So… went for the biopsy. That’s uncomfortable, that. Shooting, shooting… it’s just like being… well, I’ve never been shot but it’s just… oh, stab! And took about five pieces of this thing out.
David S first had the lump removed, but two weeks later he was told that he would need a mastectomy.
I discovered a lump about 10 years ago.
Steve describes what it was like to have the biopsy and mammogram and how he was interested in...
And what about the experience of the mammogram? I don’t think any of us find them comfortable but I mean, for a man they’re…?
David C describes having a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. The type of ultrasound he had...
Did you have a mammogram as a test?
Tom asked the radiologist to give a commentary to help him interpret the images on his ultrasound...
The actual diagnostic procedure was sort of pretty unpleasant. Of you know biopsy being taken with a thing like a sort of industrial stapler, and ultrasound, and I remember being in a darkened room with the ultrasound and the radiologist being completely silent, and me encouraging her to give a commentary on what she could see on her screen, because just like any sort of electronic diagnostic apparatus there's a matter of interpretation and although it's second nature, obviously, it's a bit like someone looking at a radar screen, isn't it- second nature for someone who does it every day, it's a lot of sort of spots and funny shapes and things for anyone who's not familiar with it on a day-to-day basis. So I tried to encourage her, and she looked extremely grave and said ‘it was not good news’. And then sort of strangely went away in another office and allowed someone else to show me out. A sort of very peculiar, alienating situation.
Bill describes having his core biopsy and the wonderful bruise that he developed after the test.
The worst thing though was, that day they told me I had cancer, they took a core biopsy, and they had given me some local anaesthetic and then taken this core biopsy, and the bruising was just so extensive and so horribly sore. It was absolutely wonderful bruise if a bruise could be described as wonderful, this was a wonderful bruise, all over this side of my chest. And the pain! And they had put this big pressure bandage on it. But, I’d often thought I could get to the front of a queue if I just exposed this bruise to people. And- but I remember that as the most painful thing actually.
BT felt embarrassed whilst he was waiting in a hospital gown for his biopsy.
And I went to [name of hospital] for a biopsy, and that were embarrassing.
Roy had to have further tests after his mammogram showed possible signs that the breast cancer...
Yeah – so you had that after you’d had the ordinary biopsy, obviously before you’d had the mastectomy?
Yeah, I had that the same, the next day. I had the ordinary biopsy done both sides, one day, and then they – coz they was a bit worried, coz the bruise, the ordinary biopsy bruises you terribly, you know, you go all black – and they said, “oh, will you be alright having this done today, coz of your bruises?” I said, “yeah, just do it, you know?” So they just done it, you know? They said, “you can leave it for a couple of weeks.” I thought no, get it over and done with.
And so was it quite a nice distraction, being able to watch it on the screen?
Yeah – I never felt it, really, you know? Once they sort of deadened it, I never felt it until it was all over, and then it’s quite – it’s a bit uncomfortable for a couple of days. But yeah, it wasn’t any great drama, really. Obviously, when they said I’d got it both sides, obviously it spread, you know?
And so were they able to detect that from this steri…eh this table top test, rather than from the mammogram?
They couldn’t do it from the normal mammogram, or the normal biopsy.
That’s coz it was kind of early crystals, yeah.
Yeah, it was very early stages in the, but he seemed to think, because of the grade of cancer, that it should all come off anyway. He said it was the best option, with the grade of the cancer. He said, “if we do a lumpectomy,” he said, “I would give it a ninety percent chance it’s going to come back within a couple of years.”
You know, so he said, “you’re just wasting your time, really,” you know? But a lot of women choose that option, because they don’t wanna lose their breast, you know what I mean?
Yeah. And you just felt like you didn’t…
Oh, I said, “no, no” I said, “they ain’t no good to me anyway.” What good are man’s nipples anyway? You know? Always been a waste of time, haven’t they, really? I said “no”.
Michael found the week between having his tests and getting definite results really difficult
HGV King felt anxious when he was waiting for the results of his test, especially when he was...
Right, and then they done all the tests in the one day and you were called back in?
David W went on his own to get his results, not expecting to hear he had breast cancer. He...
So I turns up, obviously [wife] said, “Do you want…?” I said, “No, I’ll be fine”. I said, “It’s just a result from this stupid lump, whatever it is”. Turned up for the clinic and I’m sat there and… there’s all women and only men that were there were supporting and whatever. Anyway, it came my turn and people were… “What’s he going in there for? You know, breast clinic and sorta thing”. Anyway, went in and the… [consultant], the specialist, was sort of sat at her desk and sat down by the side. “Right, mister, how are you doing?” “I’m fine, yeah.” We just had a chat and I noticed out the corner of my eye these people coming in from all directions, you know, until there were about five people stood around me and then she got down, she says, “Yeah, you know, you found this lump, we did a… ultrasound, a mammogram, fine needle core biopsy”, you know, “We’re sad to tell you you’ve got breast cancer.” I’m just… what? “Men don’t get…” “Oh yes, you do, and you’ve got it”. So you’re just thinking… all you’re hearing is the cancer. I mean, all the people I’ve ever known had cancer, they died within a short period, and that’s all you’re thinking, not knowing how bad it is and not knowing that, as I said, men could get breast cancer.
Michael found that things had moved on between his first diagnosis with breast cancer and his...
So, 2006 I think it was, I got a piece of paper that really meant it said ‘discharged’ on it, so I had to continue to take the tamoxifen for a little longer and that as far as I was concerned, was it, until 2008. I was… I discovered a lump in my other breast actually. This time I was… I found it, I have to admit, I was not good about checking my breast regularly and I’d actually been doing the decking with paint and I thought, my arm feels tired. And I felt… and I thought, ‘Oh bother, there’s a lump there’. So again I went to the doctor. He said, “Yes, you’ve got a lump”. Went through a similar procedure but I’d noticed that in the eight years that things advanced. There was… all the paperwork was a lot less gender-specific and some of that was due to my comments, and this time they had developed a new way of checking the lymph nodes which… well they do, they look at the sentinel lymph node and they put a wire… they dye, they put some dye into your breast. It goes to the first lymph node and they check it on the ultrasound and they put a wire in there to mark it, and this is the day before you have the operation. You go in and they removed this time just a lump from my breast and the first two lymph nodes which was comparatively minor to having sort of most of them removed. And I recovered even… by then I had retired so it was a lot easier and because it seemed like this, well… a piece of cake, really.
Last reviewed June 2017.