Most people feel devastated when they are told they have metastatic breast cancer. For men, this diagnosis can be particularly confronting and may bring with it many different challenges.
These may include difficulty finding breast cancer information tailored to your needs, stigma around having what is seen to be a “woman’s disease” and feelings of isolation and being on your own.
This page is written to help you understand you are not alone. We hope you will find information and be connected to the support that helps you.
There will be hurdles along the way, but never give up hope.
As a man diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, you will be looking for information and support that is tailored to your needs. BCNA’s My Journey is a tailored online resource with a dedicated section for men with a breast cancer diagnosis.
My Journey provides the latest information about metastatic breast cancer, treatment and care, including services and support available to you.
There was just no information. There was nobody really to talk to, and to be honest I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. That was really hard.
If you are looking for additional information that is tailored to men, BCNA’s booklet Men get breast get cancer too may be helpful.
Written for men diagnosed with early breast cancer, it includes some basic information about metastatic breast cancer and information on ways to deal with some of the challenges men may face after a diagnosis.
The booklet also lists other resources and counselling services available for men.
You probably have a strong sense of disbelief and shock. Men often want to understand why they have developed metastatic breast cancer, especially if they have previously had treatment for early breast cancer.
Unfortunately, even the best treatment for early breast cancer does not always remove every cancer cell.
Some men may be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer from the start. This is called ‘de novo’ breast cancer. Read about metastatic from the start.
In terms of breast cancer, my perception is that it is still perceived as being a female disease, and if a man gets it there’s got to be something wrong. Many men are totally reluctant to tell people about it.
Men with breast cancer should receive the same level of support they would receive if they had any other type of cancer. But, because it’s so uncommon, even health professionals can struggle to understand what support is needed.
This is beginning to change, with the increased focus of the needs of men with breast cancer by organisations such as BCNA, but it can be frustrating at times to feel that there’s still not enough support out there.
The good news is that there are resources that can help you.
The family support, the dog, the neighbours and the Dragons Abreast ladies – it was all a significant contribution to my welfare. Support networks are beyond value for cancer survivors. If you haven’t got it, I really think you’re up against it. Nobody has to be alone in the world.
Looking after your wellbeing is easier if you have a strong support network. Friends, partners and family are a crucial part of that support network. However, some men also find that counselling is very helpful.
Your GP may be able to refer you to a counsellor and provide you with a GP mental health care plan, which entitles you to several Medicare-subsidised appointments with a psychologist or other mental health care professional.
If you are still working, your employer may provide a small number of free, confidential counselling sessions through an employee assistance program.
In some states and territories, you can access counselling through the Cancer Council Information and Support Line (13 11 20).
Some men find it valuable to connect with others who are living with metastatic breast cancer. Unfortunately, men tell us it is especially hard to find support groups that are tailored to their needs and that help them to feel included and comfortable.
You can talk to your treating team to see if they know of other men or suitable support groups you can connect with. A counsellor, social worker or GP may be able to connect you with local support services. You may also find it helpful to seek support from other, more general cancer groups where members have a range of cancers.
You can have lots of resources and information and pamphlets and stories and newsletters, but the most powerful thing for me, to be honest, has been my friendship with other men who have been diagnosed. That has meant the world to me in terms of being able to share things that only we ‘get’!
Some men find it easier to connect through online groups, including BCNA’s Online Network. The Online Network has a private group dedicated for men living with breast cancer.
There are also overseas websites designed for men affected by breast cancer. It is important to be mindful that these groups are not always professionally facilitated, so some of the posts may not align with your own views or relate to experiences of Australians.
What really made an impression on me with my support group was the way they just listened. I cannot tell you how empowering it was for me. It was like this huge emotional weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was perfect, it was just what I needed. I went for about four sessions to that support group. And then I felt fine, I didn’t need to go anymore.
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer aims to stop the cancer from growing or slow its growth as much as possible, and to control pain, discomfort and any other symptoms. Some treatments will treat the cancer and may relieve the symptoms very quickly. Others take longer to work, and some may not work at all. If one type of treatment doesn’t work for you, there will usually be others to try.
There have been very significant advances in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer in recent years, due to research providing a better understanding of breast cancer. While research has not been undertaken specifically in men with metastatic breast cancer, men can benefit from new treatments being developed.
The treatments recommended for you will be influenced by a range of things, including the pathology or "subtype" of your breast cancer.
There are currently three main breast cancer subtypes that guide treatment recommendations:
Your oncologist will talk with you about the subtype of breast cancer that you have, but most men with breast cancer have hormone-positive breast cancer.
Listen to BCNA’s podcast episode Men get breast cancer too.
Call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 to connect to local support groups in your local area.
Visit Cancer Australia’s information portal for men with breast cancer, their families and friends and anyone else who would like to know more about breast cancer in men.
Visit Cancer Council Australia’s Breast cancer in men information.
Visit Look Good Feel Better for Men, which helps men diagnosed with cancer to manage some of the appearance-related side effects of their treatment and aims is to help improve people’s confidence and body image.
Visit MaleBC.org, an Australian information and awareness hub established by an Australian male breast cancer survivor.
Visit Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance, which brings men with breast cancer together with researchers, clinicians and oncologists around the world to advance research, clinical trials and treatments for men diagnosed with breast cancer.
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