Dad diagnosed with breast cancer after finding lump when daughter elbowed him in nipple

Caroline Allen
·4-min read
Phil Alderson, shown here after his mastectomy, was given the diagnosis in 2016. (PA Real Life)
Phil Alderson, shown here after his mastectomy, was given the diagnosis in 2016. (PA Real Life)

A dad was diagnosed with breast cancer after a nudge from his daughter alerted him to a lump behind his left nipple.

Phil Alderson, 48, was playing with his daughter Evie, 10, on a Sunday morning during the summer of 2016 when she elbowed him, causing him to experience discomfort.

The illustrator, from Wirral in Merseyside, said: “Evie elbowed me in the chest while playing and it felt weird. I then discovered a tiny pea sized lump behind my left nipple.

“I’m quite pro-active and good at seeing the doctor and getting things checked, so the next day I made an appointment, and the GP referred me for breast screening.”

“I wasn’t worried. There was no mention of what it might be and breast cancer didn’t cross my mind.

“I just thought, ‘Let’s get it checked out and go from there’.”

Two weeks later, Alderson underwent a physical examination, mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy.

He was then diagnosed with breast cancer, becoming one of only 350 men to receive the diagnosis in the UK each year – compared with 55,000 women – according to Cancer Research UK.

Alderson's daughter, Evie, right, alerted her dad to the lump. (PA Real Life)
Alderson's daughter, Evie, right, alerted her dad to the lump. (PA Real Life)

Within two months, Alderson had undergone a mastectomy and received the all clear.

Although cases of breast cancer in men are rare, the NHS says they usually occur in men over 60, but can very occasionally affect younger men.

Alderson, enjoying a new lease of life, is now campaigning alongside celebrities such as Calum Best for Future Dreams, a breast cancer charity for men, to highlight the symptoms.

Read more: One in five women unlikely to visit doctors with health concerns

Speaking about his diagnosis, he said: “My diagnosis put things into perspective.

“I realised life is relatively short, so I started saying ‘yes’ more and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

“Take action and do not worry about the outcome,’ is an excellent mantra to live by.”

He wanted to start campaigning for greater visibility of symptoms in men after he noticed that “99%” of people he spoke to first reacted by saying they didn’t know men could get breast cancer.

Symptoms of breast cancer

Symptoms in men are similar to symptoms in women and - according to the NHS - can include:

  • a lump in the breast – this is usually hard, painless and does not move around within the breast

  • the nipple turning inwards

  • fluid oozing from the nipple (nipple discharge), which may be streaked with blood

  • a sore or rash around the nipple that does not go away

  • the nipple or surrounding skin becoming hard, red or swollen

  • small bumps in the armpit (swollen glands)

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Breast cancer in women is treated in the same way in men, with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, dependent on the type of cancer.

The outlook is dependent on when the cancer is found - the earlier the better.

Men who have a genetic history of breast cancer - in men and women - are more likely to get it.

Similarly, men who have conditions that heighten the amount of oestrogen in the body, including obesity, are more at risk.

Although these risks can heighten your chances, it can also happen in men with no previous cases in their family – like Alderson.

After his operation, he was placed in a women’s ward in a private room to recover.

Alderson now campaigns for a male breast cancer charity. (PA Real Life)
Alderson now campaigns for a male breast cancer charity. (PA Real Life)

“The operation was over in a couple of hours, so I was out by teatime and one of the women came up to my room and invited me to sit with them and have a cup of tea,” he added.

“We were sat around in our dressing gowns, having a chat and swapping notes.

“It was really nice and I didn’t feel out of place at all. We were all in a similar situation and were being supportive to each other.”

“Some were having to go through chemotherapy or radiotherapy. At that stage I didn’t know if I would have to have it,” he explained.

“They were all fantastic, strong women.”

Read more: Sarah Harding undergoing surgery for breast cancer

Alderson was not found to have a genetic gene, which came as a relief to him as it could dramatically increase his daughter’s chances of getting it in the future.

Although it’s not certain that anything can be done to decrease your risk, the NHS suggests: “Eating a balanced diet, losing weight if you're overweight and not drinking too much alcohol may help.”

“I might never know if I’ve helped someone by telling my story, but if someone came up to me in 20 years’ time and said, ‘I found a lump and got it checked out thanks to you,’ that would be amazing,” he concluded.

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