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Breast Cancer in men

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men

There are a number of symptoms which might suggest that a man has breast cancer. All of these could be caused by other conditions too, so if men experience any of these symptoms it is a good idea to see the doctor, who can advise whether further tests are needed. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term prospects.

Most commonly, the first symptom of breast cancer that a man notices is a painless lump around the nipple where most of the breast tissue is in a man’s breast. Lumps can be in another area of the chest too.
Other symptoms include:
  • Some change in the nipple.
  • This could be that the nipple flattens or turns inwards (inverted nipple).
  • The nipple may become itchy, or it might bleed or ooze some other discharge (liquid).
  • A rash affecting the nipple.
  • The nipple might become tender or painful.
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast.
  • Swelling of the breast or a lump in the armpit.
  • An ulcer or sore on the breast.
  • Occasionally the first symptom that a man notices is a swollen lymph node under the arm.
Many of the men we interviewed noticed a lump when they were having a shower. Because they had not been aware that men could get breast cancer, some of them did not see their GP for several months (see Going to the GP and being referred to hospital). Some men were immediately worried that their lump might be a symptom of something serious, whilst others initially looked for other explanations, such as a cyst or fatty tissue. Some men had had no other obvious symptoms when they first became aware of their lump.
 

Roy noticed a lump close to one of his nipples whilst in the shower. He had no other symptoms and...

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Age at interview: 67
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
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You said you’d found it when you were on your fishing trip?

 
Yeah.
 
So it was just a completely painless lump?
 
Just a painless lump, about the size of my little fingernail, just a tiny, like a pea – just right above the nipple.
 
And so you just suddenly noticed it?
 
Well, I found it when I was in the shower, and I thought, that’s funny, you know? A lump there – must have knocked… perhaps I knocked myself or something, you know? And then, you could just see it, you know?
 
And was that close to your nipple?
 
Right beside me nipple, right above, just above me nipple – like sort of right on the nipple, you know?
 
But the nipple itself wasn’t affected at all?
 
No, no, no but I lost both my nipples. During the operation, but no, you know – it was, well, it was out of the blue, really, you know – just sort of, one day I’m out there fishing, fit and healthy, doing what men do, and then the next day I’m sort of, you know? But…
 
So that we just the very first time you noticed it, and as you say you came back down from your holiday and went straight along to the GP?
 
When I come back down, I went to the GP – but apparently it was a good job I did, lucky I did. It was really lucky I did.
 

Michael went to the GP as soon as he noticed a lump because he thought it was suspicious. He was...

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Age at interview: 67
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 57
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 Well I discovered it in 2000. We were meeting together in a group and I just happened to put my hands across my chest and I noticed there was a lump in my left breast. Having worked in a hospital and also… as a technician, not a nurse, and also a friend of ours had recently been through a very painful death from breast cancer, I was immediately suspicious of this lump so I went to the GP straight away, and within a week I’d seen the surgeon down at the hospital which was treating me, and he confirmed there was a lump. I had a biopsy and a mammogram and it proved… actually, the worst thing of that was the first time I went to see the out-patients department, they weren’t sure of the diagnosis. The histology was a bit unclear, and they needed it to be seen on somebody sort of more senior presumably. So that was a very, very difficult week, between the two meetings but I had a very personal experience of God’s love for me. 

 

Tom found a hard lump behind his nipple whilst drying himself after a shower. He was immediately...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 50
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Well, seen from the advantage of looking back in time, I think I'd probably been feeling rather unwell for well over a year. For reasons that were not entirely clear. And I think I may have spoken with a GP at some stage who said something like ‘perhaps you should have a holiday for a change’, or something like that. But I felt - I remember speaking with colleagues and saying 'I feel like shit today' – if you’ll pardon the language - and I have no understanding of why that's the case, I've slept well, I just feel completely drained and just generally unwell. So that sort of sets a background, but obviously I didn't know what the problem was. But, let's see, in around June 2007 I got out of the shower and was towelling myself down and thought what on earth is this in my chest and sort of probed around a bit here. And it really felt like something hard, as though I had a piece of plastic under the surface behind my right nipple. So it was rather disconcerting. And I remember at the time thinking 'oh bugger I think I know what that is'. Cos I couldn't think what else it conceivably could be. Unlike, it seems, large numbers of people out there in the general public, I knew about male breast cancer. 

Although many lumps which turn out to be breast cancer are painless and have no other associated symptoms, some men were conscious of other sensations, discomfort or symptoms.
 

When Bill’s wife noticed a lump on his chest, he went to his GP. He felt anxious waiting to hear...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 46
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 I remember it very vividly of course. It was the weekend of the Mayday holiday and, it wasn’t me that found the lump it was my wife who… she ran her hand over my chest and found this lump. And I always remember being immediately worried about it, because I hadn’t noticed it of course. So the doctor was closed on Monday. And I went into work on Tuesday and phoned the doctor for an appointment, and went from work on that Tuesday to the doctor. And he examined me and did indeed find a lump and he didn’t seem too worried about it. And he said he would refer me to the hospital. That was fine. I left, the doctor, I didn’t go back to work I don’t think that day. Anyway the next day I spoke to a lady who had breast cancer, and asked about her experience and she told me. And eh, she said that things were really good in [area] because they did this one step clinic for people with lumps on their chest. But that- turned out only to be for women, actually. And anyway, in the interim between me going to the hospital and finding out about this lump, I became really worried about it, and I have to say in my mind it was growing all the time. And then more symptoms appeared, because I began to have this real itch in both nipples. And this lump just to the inside of one. And, I went back to the doctor, I saw a different person, who did tell me I’d been referred to the surgical clinic at the hospital, and, she told me she thought I might better stay off work, in the interim.

 

When Robert noticed a lump, he never thought it could be cancer. He didn’t talk to anyone about...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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I first became aware of a lump in my left breast probably in the Autumn of 2005, it never registered with me that it would be anything like breast cancer. However, I carried on doing, doing work, stock, I do stock taking for my work. I continued through the Autumn period into the New Year of 2006. It… the lump didn’t go away but it seemed to get slightly bigger and I became concerned, I thought well, if I go and knock this on a shelf or going up a ladder or anything like that what would be the consequences? It certainly didn’t register that it would be breast cancer, I was more concerned about if I banged it, what would happen then. So, I went to the, to go and see my GP, and when I went to see my GP eh, straight away had me off to be referred.

 
So, when you said that you noticed the lump, did you talk to people about that initially or…?
 
I wouldn’t talk to anybody I didn’t even mention it to my wife.
 
Did you not?
 
The minute I mentioned it to my wife in the, sort of March of 2006, straight away she had me to the GP. So she’d would be aware, probably because she was a woman, I just thought it was a, something that was, I was just bothered about knocking it. It weren’t, it weren’t anything else. That was the main concern with me, I thought ‘well if I bang this on a shelf it could swell up’ you know, but I didn’t bother, it never occurred to me at all that it could be breast cancer. I mean there was no discharge or anything like that which I subsequently learned that’s what happens with men’s breast cancer, but I hadn’t anything like that.
 
So just thinking back to when you were first diagnosed, when you said that you first noticed your lump, it didn’t occur to you at all that it could be…?
 
As a man no, and I didn’t mentioned it to my wife or anybody, I just thought, ‘oh well, that’s there, it maybe go away’. And then gradually it must have increased in size, I think that probably…
 
So was it niggling away at the back of your mind?
 
Yes, yes it was yes, certainly by the February of 2006 yep, you know after three or four months thinking well, and then by the March I was thinking ‘well if I knock this…you know it could be awkward’.
 
So it was kind of almost a fear of it being painful or something?
 
That’s right.
 
So, and was it, did you get any pain from it to… at that time?
 
Eh, no, the only thing I would say that there was like a very brief, like a, shaft of light or something, just, you just be aware of something there, really quick like ‘ping!’
 
Almost like being stabbed with a needle or something like that?
 
Well - It wasn’t as painful as that but you were just aware of, of a feeling of a sense, and it would last for less than a second you know. It’s hardly, you just knew, and you’d be thinking well is that the nerve ends or something.
 
And so what prompted you to finally tell your wife then, if you’ve been sort of, just thinking if it’d been in the back of your mind for those few months?
 
Yes that’s right. And I just said, “Well I’ve got this lump, I think I better go and see the GP about this”. And straight away the wife she would be thinking well, breast cancer … her mindset would be different to mine.
In addition to feeling a lump Mohammad noticed that he was bleeding from his nipple.
 
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Mohammad ignored a lump at first, although it sometimes bled. One day he found a large blood...

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Age at interview: 45
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 40
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I feel lump first, then it start bleeding. In 2006, start bleeding. Minor bleedings, and I just ignore that. So I just normally- something you know. And, one night I was asleep and next day when I wake up…

 
And next day when I wake up I’ve seen it quite big, mark of blood on my vest. Then I, same day I go to see my doctor. I ask him, this is the blood come from here my vest, right breast. He just gave me an antibiotic. And I had it for one week, doesn’t make a change, just keep bleeding. Next week when I went to the doctor, he just says, he offered for me the biopsy. In one week, go to see that… for the biopsy. Yeah, in one week they done the biopsy and they done it after I think it’s three or four days, they ring me. We want to see you tomorrow, or day after tomorrow. I can’t remember what date, time, so.
 
You noticed a lump first-
 
Yes I noticed the lump first.
 
How did it-
 
I just- you know the- I feel itchy, I just start itching. And next day I see the mark on my breast. I never noticed it before, I don’t know how long is this on there.
 
So you don’t know how long it had been there?
 
No, no.
 
Did you show anybody else?
 
No, no.
 
How long did you wait before you went to the GP?
 
Maybe about two weeks. I think two weeks, three weeks I had operation.
 
So you had-
 
First week I show the GP, he gave me some antibiotics, for in-growing hair, a boil. The bleeding continued. Then the doctor sent me for a biopsy.
 
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Interview 32 noticed a lump near his nipple. He went to the doctor as soon as he also noticed...

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Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 66
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So go right back to the beginning and tell me how you first suspected there might have been a problem?

 
I didn’t suspect there was a problem. I was just having a shower on the Monday and I was rushing out, I was going out so, and I felt, and, I was just washing “Oh, I think there’s a lump there” and then I got ready, got out, oh, and everything was fine, completely forgot about it until the, I was having another shower on the Thursday. And I thought “hang on that’s a lump there” and then I looked in the mirror and then I knew there was something wrong because my nipple had gone in, and then I went the following day to see a doctor and then they, it was very fast he must have twig… my doctor must have realised when he sit and said ‘ oh, I want you to see a consultant’ and I went to see Mr [name], I think it’s the one in [place], and they did tests on me and then I think they couldn’t see me over Christmas, saw me in about the third of January, about the fifteenth of January I had my first operation.
 
So, when you very first noticed it, you went… so you noticed it on the Monday, and then again on the Thursday?
 
Aye, I was rushing, I felt it was on the breast, I felt like a lump on the breast near the nipple and I didn’t really look at it at all, then I got more time, I was... in the shower and all, I was in the shower going to have a wash, and I thought the lump didn’t, I didn’t… my imagination, didn’t seem to be as big as the other time. Then I went to look at it and then I got a shock, the nipple had gone inwards.
 
And that was the first time you’d noticed that?
 
That was the first time I noticed that, and then I...
 
So you went straight to the doctor?
 
I went straight to the doctor and the doctor referred me to see the consultant in and he, unfortunately he was so busy he couldn’t see me over, because it was near Christmas. He couldn’t see me over Christmas, saw me I think was the third of January, and about the fifteenth of January I was in hospital and the sixteenth I had the operation.
The first symptom that some men noticed was an inverted nipple, without or before finding a lump. They often first spotted this change in their nipple whilst they were showering, looking in a mirror whilst they were shaving bare-chested, or whilst they were getting dressed or undressed. A lack of pain sometimes meant that men waited some time before asking a doctor about their inverted nipple.
 

HGV King noticed his inverted nipple about six months before a medical for work. It was painless...

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Age at interview: 51
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 50
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 When did you first… can you remember the very first time you found the lump…?

 
I didn’t have a lump.
 
… or your inverted nipple?
 
I had an inverted nipple…
 
Right.
 
I found it, obviously six, seven months beforehand.
 
Right, were you in a shower, getting dried…?
 
Yeah, when I was showering.
 
Just showering.
 
And I looked down and saw it inverted and all I just kept trying to do was prise it back out again. I didn’t nothing of it, because it’s painless. There was no lump, it was just an inverted nipple.
 
That was all you had?
 
That was all I had. The lump was about an inch or so away from the nipple.
 
Right, so when did the lump appear, then?
 
It didn’t.
 
You just didn’t feel it?
 
I didn’t feel it.
 
It wasn’t till they did the investigations?
 
Yeah, and then I spotted in on that monitor. That’s how I saw a little white dot and as I say, two centimetres. It wasn’t that big. I’ve seen on the internet that people get a lot bigger than two centimetres, so I was lucky, but that’s where it should be put out there to men, for men to understand that they can get this because I was lucky because I had that medical, which is five-yearly. Now, if I’d have had that lump or that inverted nipple which I wouldn’t go to the doctors with because it was painless, it didn’t hurt me, and I wouldn’t have gone. So, I could’ve gone three years, four years down the line.
 
So did you know that men could get breast cancer?
 
No, not at the time.
 

One of John’s nipples became flatter. He showed his wife, who worked in a hospital and had met a...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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Well my story, I think it’s a little bizarre in a way, Kate the problem as I call it, started, I call it a problem because breast cancer was the furthest thing from my mind when the problem, as I call it, started. I was in the bathroom, stripped off for a shower or something, and I happened to look in the mirror and I thought, ‘that right nipple, it seemed to be slightly smaller and flatter than the other one’. But, being a male I took no notice. Two or three days later, another look, I said honestly I took no notice whatsoever. I don’t know what was going on inside my brain, what I thought it was, I haven’t got a clue. Anyway a few weeks passed, and I said to my wife one night, we were getting undressed ready to go to bed, and I says, “Look at that nipple compared with that one”. And, “Oh my God” she said “you need that checked out”. [name] works at the hospital so she, you know. So being a male, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ok love ok”.

 
And had you been well up until that point you’d had no, no other symptoms?
 
No problems whatsoever, Kate. The surgeon, he asked me, he said, “any pain, any discharge or anything”. You know. And with hindsight, but I didn’t realise it at the time as I say, I think there may have been a slight discharge because some mornings I used to get up and it was a little bit crusty, but I think I put it down to, ‘oh a bit of dry skin or something’. In fact, I think for a while I used to put cream on it to, you know, dry skin. But with hindsight it may have been a slight discharge, but I mean it wasn’t you know, my pyjamas wasn’t soaked or anything like that. But that was the only thing, but as I say I John never put two and two together at all. 
A few men had had very longstanding breast symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms had stayed the same over many years, and the men only went to see their doctor when they noticed some change.
 
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When he was 15, Interview 07's breasts became bigger. They continued to grow later in life. When...

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 53
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Actually I thought I was a freak, freak of nature, ken what I mean? Growing up my mother never tell me… well, never tell me nothing, so… by the time of 15 I started getting my breasts started growing bigger, ken what I mean, at 15. But in the… in the fifties, sixties, there was a thing going about nipping your… ken… ken nipping the nipple, ken what I mean? And this nipple got a lump in it, but… cos breast cancer was never even thought about then, ken what I mean? Never entered anybody’s head, and it just got, I just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and then I was asked, no long… ken a few years ago, ken like early nineties, say? But because they kent my mother had a heart trouble and my dad dead o’ Alzheim- no Alzheimer’s… ken the one where he lost his mind.
 
Dementia?
 
Dementia, right. Cos they kent that, they never… the two doctors never even bothered going for biopsies or anything, and it was later on, my nipple started going in on itself, so I went down for an insurance line [laughs] and went by the way… ken, I was nearly walking out the door. I went “Oh, by the way, doctor”, I says, “my nipple’s sinking in on itself”, ken? And he says, “Let’s look” and he just sat me there, he says “you’re going to a specialist.” Right away he said, “You’re going to a specialist” and that’s when I found out. But I believe it was there fae… 15, 16, but growing.
 
Is there a lump in your breast? And how was…
 
It was huge.
 
Right.

 
It was huge, know what I mean?
 
Ken, it kept on growing. 
 
 
 

David C was about 20 when he noticed a lump which he squeezed, releasing blood and pus. The lump...

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Age at interview: 72
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 71
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 It first started, oddly enough, about fifty years ago – I was twenty years old at the time, and I noticed I had a lump under my left nipple. I squeezed it and got some blood and puss out – but fifty years ago, nobody ever thought about male breast cancer. So I never thought any more about it. It hardened into a small lump, just behind the nipple, and it stayed like that for about forty odd years – as far as I can remember. And then, about five or six years ago, I’m not quite sure how long ago, it grew again, which I became a little bit concerned about – but it stopped growing. And I thought, well after forty-odd years, if that’s as much as it’ll do, it’s not worth bothering about. So just about eight months ago, it grew again overnight, and that’s when I got really worried. And I went down to the doctors the following day – and I got an appointment the following day. I was admitted to hospital about ten days later – very quickly. They had an emergency cancellation, and I got that instead, and I had a mastectomy, which was completely painless – no bother at all. Occasional, slight twinge, but over the entire period of time, I haven’t felt pain at all – there’s no problem with the pain or anything like that. Of course, I had the seroma which meant it grew up with fluid quite a lot of it, actually – a bit of a nuisance but no problem at all. I went in and got it drained. So that’s basically about as much of the story. The thing I want to get over is if you’ve, any male or female has a lump on their breast, go down, immediately, to the doctor – otherwise, if you delay it, of course, the cancer can spread.

 
So when you first noticed the problem when you were twenty, did you see a doctor then?
 
No.
 
No, why?
 
Being a typical male from [name of city], don’t go to doctors. Not a good idea.
 
Why?
 
Just in case I have something, a problem like cancer, like that – no, you’ve really ought to be sensible about these things and go to the doctors. Females are much more open and aware of these things – males aren’t, and they’re fairly sensitive about going to the doctors, or even believing that they’re ill.
 
What was it that changed overnight about it?
 
It just grew in size from about one centimetre to about two centimetres.
 
Right – was it painful?
 
It wasn’t in the least bit painful.
 
No, and there was no discharge from the nipple or anything?
 
No discharge – no blood, no discharge.
 
So it was just the fact that it got bigger?
 
Got bigger, yes.
 
How old were you the second time the lump came up?
 
I’d be about sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six, I think. My oncologist said it’s not possible that a lump can grow three times. The Macmillan nurse thought it might have been three separate lumps – but it wasn’t. I swear, it was just the one lump from fifty years ago, getting bigger a second time, and then finally getting bigger a third time. Whether it was cancerous the second time and it was slow, I don’t know. Or maybe it was even cancerous the first time – who knows, who knows?
 
So why didn’t you go to your GP when it grew the second time, then?
 
I waited about a week and it stopped, and I thought that’s eh, “if that’s all it can do in fifty years, that’s fine.”

Ok – so do you think it was more the rapidity of how much it grew overnight that shocked you into going?

Overnight. Yes, that’s what, eventually, very quickly, actually, made me think I have to go to the doctor and get this sorted out. 
 
Some of these men had spoken to a doctor about their symptoms some years before they were diagnosed. They had either been reassured or received normal test results. In either case, it was only when they noticed additional symptoms that they went back again to their doctor to have it checked again.
 

John had a normal biopsy result on a breast lump which had bled several times. Ten years later,...

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 57
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Well the first thing I had a brush with cancer I was playing snooker at my local club and someone said to me, "You've cut yourself you've got blood on your shirt," and I thought that's odd you know. I just didn't know how I'd cut myself playing snooker and I didn't take any notice of that at all. And then 2 days after that I was playing snooker again and someone else said, "You've cut yourself, you've got blood on your shirt." I thought this can't be right because there was no cut anywhere or anything. So I went and saw my local GP and he sent me to see a doctor at the hospital. And this was on the Wednesday and on the Friday lunch time I got a phone call and the doctor said, "You're in hospital Tuesday." And I said "Well hold on a moment I've got a job you know." Then he said, "Well don't say no now," he said "because in 6 weeks time you might not be able to say anything," he said "you've got cancer." I thought this is ridiculous you know you don't think that it's going to happen to you. So I went and went into hospital and it was a very minor operation as such and after 3 months they told me its benign which was I thought terrific you know that was a let off really more than anything. So then I didn't think much of it at all. But after that about 10 years after that I noticed that my nipple was getting very disfigured on the same side I had the operation, so I've gone to the local GP again and there again I've gone to the hospital and he took, they took a sample of fluid from the chest but within 10 minutes the registrar came in the room and said, "You've got to have an operation," so he must've known before they took the sample. So that didn't take very long, I've gone into the hospital again and it was quite a large operation apparently, they didn't think it was going to be so large until they opened me up.

 

Bernard had a lump for many years but saw a doctor when it started to itch. He was reassured that...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 56
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 Well I- I had this lump next to my nipple for, x amount of years, right? And it didn’t bother me. Then, say about four year before I had the operation maybe five year before I had the operation, it began to get itchy. It was only a wee tiny, it was like a second nipple actually, maybe no even as big as my nipple you know. And eh, I went to my doctor’s and my doctor says to me, “It’s nothing to worry about Mr [name]”, I’ve got on well with my doctor by the way I do, Dr [name of GP], he’s a very nice chap. And, I said, “Well that’s fine”, he said “if you want to go in” he says, “you can go in to get it cut out” he says “and that’ll be it”. I says, “No”, I says “I can live with this”, I says “I’ll be fine”, you know. So, we used to go down to the caravan, down in- down the [name of area ] coast, we used to go down there. One day I was having a shower in the caravan and it bled, you know. So I just, I says, “Ach well it’ll be okay”. But it started to get very itchy. This is the only way I can explain it to you my dear, you know. And, I went back to the doctor’s - this was, say about four year before it- after it started getting itchy you know. And I went back to this doctor and it was a wee locum doctor that was there, hell of a nice wee chap. And, I’d says to him, I actually went down, I had- where I work, I’m a DCO, a Day Care Officer, with profound children and that you know.

 
And, there was a chiropodist in and they were getting, some of the kids or some of the adults rather, they were getting their toenails clipped, and I’d says to them, “Look” I says, “you couldn’t do mine could you?” And she went, “Look [name] I’m telling ye”, she says, “you go and get your toe nails off, you’ve got ingrown toenails”. And I’ve had them for years you know. But she clipped it anyway, but in the course of her clipping it and this, about a fortnight after it, it began to poison, she hadn’t took the nail right away, so this is how I went to my doctor, and he’d says to me, “I’ll give you antibiotics for that, but you’ll need to get your toenail off eventually”. Which I eventually did, I went and got it done. But while I was there I’d says to him, I’d says, “By the way doctor” I says, I didn’t even know the doctor’s name, I says to him I says, I says, “I’ve got a wee concern”. He says, “What is it?” I says, “It’s my chest I says, I’ve thingmy there”, and he looked at it and he says, “Oh I’ll send you for a biopsy” he says “and that’ll put your mind at ease”. I says, “That’s fine”. So I went for the biopsy, on the, following Tuesday or something like that. Or a couple of weeks after, I think it was the Tuesday I went anyway. So I went up and I seen this doctor, doctor- female, very nice lady. And she says to me, “There’s ninety nine point ninety nine percent sure there’s nothing for you to worry about”. So that was me away home with a skip in my thingmy, you know skipping no problem. And I’d says to [name of wife], I says, “She says it’s nothing to worry about darling”. She said, “Did you get it done?” I says, “Aye”. I says, “They gave me the jag” I says “and they’ve took it anyway”. So I came in from my work the Friday and I got the phone call. I’m telling a lie, I was still off my work with the, with the ingrown toenail. And I got the phone call on the Friday and, it was this doctor that had says to me, “Could you come up to the hospital?” And I went, “When would you like me up?” “As soon as, could you come up on Tuesday”. So I just turned round and I says to [name of wife], I says “I’ve got cancer”. Do you know what I mean? And I- just to say- and she went “[name] don’t be so stupid”. I says, “look, I says I’m telling you”, you know I said, “there’s something wrong”. I says “they want me up right away, and they’ve done that you know, for nothing”.
One man had the very unusual experience of consulting a doctor about 3 or 4 hard lumps which he had felt on one side of his chest. These proved to be just duct growths, but he was given a mammogram on both sides (this was the policy of his local health authority). This revealed that he had a pea-sized malignant lump on the other side of his chest that he might otherwise have missed.
 

Steve consulted for lumps under his left nipple. Luckily he had a mammogram on both sides which...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 58
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I’d been having a problem with my left nipple area, it was getting very, very sensitive, and I noticed that there were a couple of lumps there. So I thought, “Right, this needs looking at, I think”. And I was about to go away on holiday to Turkey, so I thought, perhaps I wouldn’t get as good healthcare out there as I would get here, so I thought, go to the GP, and he had a check around the area, he could feel the lumps as well. There were about three or four definite, hard lumps there which were very, very tender and painful – I mean, literally, even with the shirt on, it was painful. So he organised a mammogram for me, but in the meantime I actually went on holiday, and I did feel a little bit better. When I came back, I had the mammogram almost within a couple of days of me returning. I had to wait a week then for the results, and then I was called in, met my consultant surgeon, introduced to the breast care nurse, and I thought, “Something’s probably up here”, and he said he’d found a lump. And I thought, “Oh, right, okay” – so I thought, right, he’s found a lump, what does that mean, and he said, “We think it’s aggressive breast cancer.” Alarm bells were ringing again. And he said, “It’s in your right breast,” and I thought, “No, it can’t possibly be in my right breast, because my left breast is the problem area”. So I said, “Don’t you mean my left breast?” He said, “No, it’s definitely in your right breast.”

 
I’m keen on letting other men realise that, as long as you get this early, and present yourself early to your GP, then, you know, it’s a good prognosis, you know, I mean, you’ll be sorted. And obviously there are different levels of breast cancer, but in my case, I think – I’m not entirely sure – I think the surgeon said he estimated that I’d probably had a growth for about a year. So that was the size of a little pea, about that sort of size. But the lucky thing was that they did a mammogram on both breasts, because, you know, I know that in certain health authorities they’ll only mammogram you on the breast that is presenting with a problem. So as I had the breast problem on this side (left), it may have been missed completely. So luckily, for our health authority I was mammogrammed on both sides, and, you know, luck of the draw.
 
So the lumps on the other side all proved to be...?
 
Well, to be quite honest with you, I would have thought – they proved to be just duct growths, that were, just normal growth that was giving me pain. I would say, by the time of the operation, no problem at all [indicating left side]. I could still feel a little bit of the lump, you know, the bigger lumps, but the others had subsided, and my nipple, which was the big pain problem, was as it is now, it’s no problem at all.
 
So that, in a way, sounds like that was just a very fortunate coincidence, was it?
 
Pure fluke, as my surgeon says – “This is very fluky!” (laughing) We were all amazed, I think, that I had no symptoms in my right breast as well.
 
So it may have gone unnoticed by you for quite some time afterwards.
 
Absolutely. Yeah. Possibly. 
 
Three men discussed having a recurrence of breast cancer. One man had an ache under his arm, another had found a lump and the third had had an itchy nipple. They were all given more treatment.
Several men advised others not to delay seeing their GP if they noticed any unusual breast symptoms.
More information on breast cancer in men, including symptoms, can be found at: breastcancer.org
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in women

Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.
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