Man diagnosed with breast cancer encourages others to check for signs and symptoms

Doug Harper was diagnosed with breast cancer three days before his 50th birthday. (Breast Cancer Now)
Doug Harper was diagnosed with breast cancer three days before his 50th birthday. (Breast Cancer Now)

When Doug Harper found a lump on the top part of his nipple in 2012, his first thought was that it was a cyst.

"I was laughing and joking with the doctor until I took my shirt off and his expression changed," the 61-year-old says.

"I was the first man in three years to be diagnosed with breast cancer in my local health authority."

The father of five, who is originally from Walthamstow and now living in Plumstead, adds that he didn’t realise that men could get breast cancer before he was diagnosed just three days shy of his 50th birthday.

Read more: Breast cancer symptoms as survivor Sarah Beeny says she feels 'very fortunate' (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)

"All my life I’ve been scared of having cancer. If there was anything on the telly about it, I’d turn it over, or anything in the paper I wouldn’t read it. I didn’t want to know about it. Now, since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’m always banging on about it! It’s so important for people to know, to catch it early," he explains.

"I’d like as many people to know as possible that men can get breast cancer. Even though only 400 men a year get breast cancer, the five-year survival rates are lower for men than women in the UK. This may be because men often ignore a lump, they leave it too late. There are some men who find it embarrassing even to check, but we’ve all got breast tissue."

Doug is now an advocate for men with breast cancer. (Breast Cancer Now)
Doug is now an advocate for men with breast cancer. (Breast Cancer Now)

In order to raise awareness for the disease, Harper has teamed up with Asda, Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel! to encourage shoppers to check their breasts, pecs and chests for signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

"Many people don’t realise that men can get breast cancer because they don’t think of men as having breasts. However, men do have a small amount of breast tissue," Breast Cancer Now’s Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist, Louise Grimsdell says.

Read more: How to check your breasts for lumps (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

"It’s important that men get used to checking their chest regularly and are aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer."

Breast cancer signs and symptoms in men

Grimsdell explains that the most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a lump in the chest area which is often painless.

"Other symptoms may include discharge from the nipple, a tender or inverted nipple, ulcers on the chest or nipple, or swelling of the chest area or lymph nodes under the arm," she adds.

The NHS says men should make an appointment with their GP if they notice a lump in their breast or any other worrying symptoms such as nipple discharge.

Pink ribbon, breast cancer and awareness with a woman in studio on a blue background for health. Chest, medical and healthcare with a female placing a bow, symbol or sign of recognition in october
Over 400 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. (Getty Images)

Causes of breast cancer in men

While the exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, some factors that could contribute to it include genetics such as a family history of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, conditions like obesity, Klinefelter syndrome and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) that can increase the levels of oestrogen in the body, or previous radiotherapy to the chest area.

Read more: The different types of breast cancers (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

How breast cancer in men is treated

It’s important to get checked early if you notice any lump in the breast or chest area as someone’s treatment will depend on how much the cancer has spread.

Some possible treatments include a mastectomy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and some other medicines.

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