Breast cancer in men is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all cancers in men, and indeed, less than 1% of all breast cancers.
Rare or not, if you are dealing with breast cancer you will have questions, need information and support tailored to your individual circumstances.
You've probably discovered there is very little information written specifically for men. Remember, this is a medical condition and you should expect the same level of support and compassion from health professionals, family and friends as you would expect if you had bowel or prostate cancer. Indeed, family and friends often don't know what to say or how to support someone with cancer, no matter what type of cancer it is.
It often helps to break the ice if you take the lead and talk openly about your cancer. This sends the message that you are comfortable talking about your cancer and that it's nothing to be ashamed of.
"Everything I picked up was geared to women, so I put it down. I went to a couple of cancer courses, one was the Living with cancer education program, and I found that very helpful." -- Norman, Kalamunda, Western Australia
Men and the BRCA2 gene
The BRCA2 gene mutation is a hereditary gene fault that is passed down through families. Both women and men can carry the mutation and pass it on to their children.
While it is well known that women who carry the mutation are at increased risk of developing breast (and ovarian) cancer, research published in the UK in July 2010 found that men who carry the gene mutation are also at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The UK researchers looked at the incidence of male breast cancer in 321 families with BRCA2 mutations, and found that men with the gene mutation have a one in 15 chance of developing breast cancer by the time they reach 70.
"The risks are sufficient to increase awareness of breast cancer among men in BRCA2 families, and to stress the importance of early presentation with breast symptoms," the researchers said.
Men with the BRCA2 mutation are also at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
We hope that the personal stories included here, and the suggested resources, help you in your journey with breast cancer.
- Personal stories from men with breast cancer.
- My Journey Kit - while we refer to women with breast cancer throughout this publication, much of the information will be helpful to you too.
- Join our online network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.
- Review of male breast cancer update in the Lancet, 18 February 2006.
- Visit the US-based Look Good... Feel Better For Men website, for tips on managing the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as hair loss and changes to the skin.
The articles below are PDF files and will open into a new window.
- Men do get breast cancer, The Weekly Review, 31 October 2012
- Survivor warns all of cancer, Courier Mail Sunshine Coast, 27 February, 2012
- Surprised man needed a mastectomy, The Courier Mail, 30 November, 2011
- Survivor warns men about breast cancer, The Age, 7 October, 2009
- Breast cancer in men, The Canberra Times, 8 March 2007
The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Male Breast Cancer: A revised and updated directory for the internet age. (US), Editors: James N. Parker and Philip M. Parker, available to order from the Amazon website.
The following are off-site links and open in a new window.websites provide more information about breast cancer in men:
- The National Cancer Institute (US)
- The American Cancer Society (USA)
- Breast cancer in men WebMD website (US)
Currently there are no face-to-face support groups in Australia specifically for men with breast cancer. However, there are many general cancer support groups and you may find these helpful. There are also Living with Cancer Education Programs for people with cancer that provide information about cancer, its treatment and ways to deal with it.
- If you'd like to join a face-to-face support group, call 13 11 20 for information about the nearest group to you
- Join our online network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help
- Look Good ... Feel Better offer a 'Gent's Grooming' program to help manage the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as hair loss and changes to the skin. For more information visit the Look Good… Feel Better - Gent's Grooming listing in BCNA’s Local Services Directory. You can also read tips on managing these side-effects by visiting the US-based Look Good... Feel Better For Men website.