NHS leaves men with breast cancer 'isolated'

Bernard Greenan
Image caption Bernard Greenan had surgery after being told the spot on his nipple was nothing to worry about

Even the NHS is forgetting that men get breast cancer, according to some of those who have been diagnosed.

Only 1% of breast cancer cases are in men and research for a website suggests many of them feel isolated by a health service which is geared towards women.

Kate Hunt, from the Medical Research Council's public health sciences unit in Glasgow, spoke to 33 men diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Sometimes people are just a little bit thoughtless, so in a clinic setting a man might be called to his appointment being addressed as 'Mrs' rather than 'Mr'," she said.

"Similarly, going to get a prescription, they'll be told the drug isn't for men, it's only for women."

The research was carried out for the website, which features real patients' stories to provide information and support for people with a variety of conditions.

Bernard Greenan had been told a spot on his nipple was nothing to worry about, but he decided to ask his local GP to take a second look after it started bleeding.

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Media captionNew research shows men diagnosed with breast cancer feel isolated by services geared up only for women

"It started getting very itchy so I went back to the doctors and it was a young locum who was in, and I said, 'Would you mind having a look at my chest?' and he said, 'Well, I'll send you for a biopsy straight away'.

"They told me not to worry about it, they were 99.9% positive there was nothing wrong with me. That was on the Tuesday and then on the Friday I got the phone call to come in and that was it.

"They operated on me the following week."

Like many with the condition, Bernard has never met another man with breast cancer.

Most are likely to be the only male patient in breast cancer clinics.

Other men interviewed for the website said they felt isolated by female-focused services.

One man, who only wanted to be identified as Ben, said: "In the information pack that they sent, they said that for the operation I should bring a soft bra with me.

"I realised then that it was geared for women."

One suggestion made to researchers is that the pink ribbon, which has become a symbol of breast cancer awareness month, should have a blue streak or spot as a reminder that men get breast cancer too.

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