Ian Bentley

We have a faulty gene in our family, that so far ; we can’t find.so as a family, we don’t know if we carry a faulty or aggressive gene ; or if we’ve just been unlucky! My mum, mums mum and mums sister all battled long illnesses with breast cancer, but sadly my aunt and grandmother died at 46 and my mum at 50.

Being 28 years ago the men in the family didn’t talk about ‘Breast Cancer’ after all it’s a woman’s disease and the only conversation my brother and I had was that one day we would get a phone call saying our sister had breast cancer. So you can imagine our shock when it was my brother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, he was 36. He had a mastectomy and radio therapy but died aged 39.

The following year my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump, she was due to have preventative surgery later that year! She was 37, she fought it hard with bi-lateral mastectomy, chemo, trial chemo, drugs and full hysterectomy. She is12 years on clear and healthy.

But that’s when my fight started, when my brother was diagnosed I went to my GP for help and advice, but he didn’t know men could get breast cancer and in less than 5 minutes, I was being shown the door with his parting comment “let me know how you get on”

Shocked and scared, I was stunned with his lack of empathy, but lucky that my sister was involved with the nightingale centre since mums death. So started a few years of offering myself for blood tests, scans, even trying a mammogram (as a man we don’t fit in the equipment) in 2004 I asked if I could have preventative surgery, because we can’t find the faulty gene having preventative surgery was the only option left for peace of mind.

Staff at my hospital appointments didn’t expect a man, they thought the “mr” was a spelling mistake. On the day of my operation, the security staff thought I was a trouble maker trying to get onto a women’s ward, when I got up to the ward they struggled to find me a bed because again they thought it was a spelling mistake Mr should have been MRS.

The forms I had to fill in at the breast cancer unit were all directed at women and were virtually impossible for me to fill in anything other than name, address and date of birth. I couldn’t answer when my period started, how many pregnancies I’d had or if I breastfed, there wasn’t even a box to tick male or a Mr instead of MRS or Miss!

I’m  a grandfather now and even though we don’t know if we carry a faulty gene (just because we can’t find it doesn’t mean it’s not there!) I still get frustrated at the lack of information available about male breast cancer and the lack of awareness within the medical profession and the general public.

Yes it can be embarrassing as a man to talk about what is considered to be a woman’s disease but with the help of ‘Prevent Breast Cancer’ we can break down these misconceptions and increase survival rates in men by raising awareness and making it easier for men to get earlier diagnosis and help.