Male Breast Cancer Is An Actual Thing Men Should Worry About

We think of it as purely a women's health issue, but breast cancer can affect men too – and we need to talk about that more.

Male Breast Cancer Is An Actual Thing Men Should Worry About

Australian men tend to be rather handsy with each other. We love playing contact sports, we love a good handshake, and we’ve all slapped a mate on the arse as a joke. I defy you to say otherwise. But perhaps we should be putting our hands to better use.

As most of us are probably aware, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. Approximately 57 Australians are diagnosed each and every day, which works out to over 20,000 diagnoses every year. Around 9 Aussies die every day from breast cancer, too.

We tend to think about breast cancer as being a specifically female issue, though – and sure, women are far more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer – but did you know 173 of those diagnoses will be men?

Yes, men can get breast cancer too. It’s one of those things that Aussie men probably don’t think will ever happen to them, or even can happen to them. It’s also probably why many instances of male breast cancer go undiagnosed or are diagnosed too late.

George Lawrence-Brown and his mastectomy scar. Image: The McGrath Foundation

Case in point: George Lawrence-Brown, a 68-year-old English expat from South Australia. Nearly twelve months ago, when George woke up to a sensitive lump in his nipple, many things crossed his mind, but breast cancer was not one of them. Initial trips to the doctor suggested nothing out of the ordinary, but after an ultrasound and biopsy, it was found that he did indeed have breast cancer.

Poor George had to have a mastectomy and axillary lymph node clearance to stop the cancer from spreading. To add insult to injury, he contracted a severe infection after his injury, which is still being treated by his McGrath Breast Care Nurses, Catherin Peter and Debbie Hayes. George was Catherin and Debbie’s first male case.

George had never thought about getting breast cancer – it just wasn’t on his radar. But now he’s passionate about spreading awareness amongst men and encouraging everyone to get checked to detect breast cancer early.

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That’s why he’s partnered with The McGrath Foundation, Australia’s leading breast cancer support and education charity, to share his story and raise awareness of the good work McGrath Breast Care Nurses do, and we thank him for sharing his story with us.

The McGrath Foundation recently committed to funding 250 nurses by 2025, which will bring the Foundation one step closer to realising their mission to ensure no one (both women AND men) goes through breast cancer without the care of a breast care nurse.

Image: Shutterstock

Why are we making such a big deal about breast cancer in men when it’s so uncommon? Well, it’s precisely because it’s so uncommon that it’s such a problem. Because so much of the discourse, awareness and care systems for breast cancer are so feminised, it marginalises men, either as patients or survivors. It stops men from getting help.

Research from the UK also suggests that while five-year survival rates vary depending on the stage of the disease at diagnosis, they are generally poorer for men than women. Without diminishing how women suffer from breast cancer, that’s unacceptable.

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So whilst we’re not recommending you go out there and start squeezing your mates’ breasts (at least, not without permission), maybe you should consider giving your own moobs a squeeze every now and then. If you notice something unusual, you shouldn’t just ignore it – just because women are disproportionately diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t mean men are completely immune from the disease.