INSPIRATIONAL STORIES: PETER FLEMING

When Peter, 83, found a lump in his breast in late 2004 when he was 71, he recalls no mention of breast cancer being made when he visited his GP. After delays, Peter was finally diagnosed with male breast cancer in March 2005.

With a worrying amount of people unaware that men can develop breast cancer, Peter believes it is important that male breast cancer is addressed, especially within the mass media, to ensure men are not forgotten about when it comes to breast cancer.

Peter Fleming Male Breast Cancer awareness

Peter has continuously helped to raise funds for Prevent Breast Cancer and never misses the opportunity to spread awareness of the risks of male breast cancer.

How much did you know about male breast cancer before you found out you had it? Had you ever considered you might be at risk?

“I knew nothing at all about male breast cancer. When a female member of the family had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn’t aware of the connection and that other sibling would be at risk too. My mother, we think, had breast cancer, but of course, it was never talked about back then. Other members of my family had also been diagnosed with breast cancer, including my sister, who was diagnosed at the age of 34. My niece was also diagnosed three months after myself in June 2005. She was then diagnosed with secondary cancer in her liver in 2012 and sadly died at the age of 47, leaving a husband and two young sons behind. Three months later, I was also diagnosed with secondary cancer; however, fortunately, this is well controlled with medication.”

How did you and your family find the experience?

“On finding a breast lump, I made an appointment with my GP the very same day (on my wife’s insistence). Unfortunately, my experience before my diagnosis did not run smoothly. With the doctor not even mentioning the possibility of breast cancer, a referral was made to a general surgeon whose specialty was colorectal surgery. I was finally operated on in March 2005 and felt shock, dismay, and anger at the three-month delay from referral to surgery. There had been delays throughout the whole process.”

What advice would you give to men who are concerned they may have breast cancer?

“The advice I would give to men who are concerned that they may have breast cancer is to see a GP as soon as possible – do not ignore it. Involve the family as soon as possible and be aware of your family tree. My sister, her daughter and myself all saw the same professor, Gareth Evans, who looked at our genes and the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations were not identified. He came to the conclusion that there was a rogue gene that may in the future be identified.”

What do you think needs to be done to make sure men aren’t forgotten about when it comes to breast cancer awareness?

“Male breast cancer needs addressing, especially on the TV and radio. Although breast cancer is mainly a female condition, we must not forget about the risk to men too. It is natural for women who have had breast cancer to worry about the connection to and risk of their daughters developing breast cancer, but all the family needs to be made aware, including the men. GP surgeries, bulletins, predominately male societies, football stadiums, hospitals and fitness clubs should all help raise the well-needed awareness of male breast cancer.

I have raised funds for Prevent Breast Cancer over the years and have a wife who is equally as passionate. It is worrying that a large number of people are not aware that men are too at risk of developing breast cancer.”

There are many ways you can help us spread awareness of breast cancer in both men and women. Find out how you can get involved today.      

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