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Lifting the taboo on breast cancer in men

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 01, 2014

  • Vivian Hankey

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Male breast cancer is a taboo subject that many don’t like to talk about. However, ROB SMYTH has spoken to one victim who was brave enough to come forward.

‘YOU read in the paper all the time about women needing to make sure they get checked for breast cancer and I always say – what about the men?’

Vivian Hankey showed no sign embarrassment or worry when he said these words. Instead he has a steely look of determination for his message to be heard.

The Winshill resident decided to tell the Mail about his experiences when doctors told him they thought he might have breast cancer, forcing him to face an agonising wait before undergoing surgery to remove a lump from his chest.

Now, years later, the 71-year-old wants to use his personal experiences to show men what can happen and what they can do to make sure they prevent it.

He said: “I noticed a small lump under my left nipple in the late 1980s.

“I was living at home with mother at the time so I told her about it.

“She went and told the GP and he said he wanted to see me that very afternoon.

“So I went and saw him and within hours I was rushed to hospital and was placed in a bed on a ward.

“A specialist doctor came in and examined me before saying that they would have to operate the very next day.

“They said they would preserve the nipple as best they could and, before I knew it, I was one the operating theatre and coming round from the anaesthetic.

“After coming round and trying to take it all in, I had a look down at my chest expecting to see big scar.

“However, I was shocked and surprised to see just a little crease in the skin that covered the chest muscles, rather than anything bigger.

“So, when the doctor appeared again later, I asked him about the operation.

“He said that, as well as removing the lump, they had taken a sample of chest muscle so that they could test it to see if I was then clear of cancer or not as a result of the operation.

“Luckily for me, apart form the little crease in the skin of my chest, the outcome was good and I was, from that point, cancer free. It is fair to say that I was very happy.

“However, I always think back to that time and think that if nobody had taken any notice of me and my concerns initially, then the outcome may well have been a lot different.”

The 71-year-old is now urging all men to make sure they get themselves checked out and not to be “embarrassed or scared”.

He added: “I hope that this will in some way help both the young and slightly older men overcome the thoughts that men do not and cannot get breast cancer in any way, shape or form.

“I want to push thoughts away from the silly idea that it is still only the female half of the world population that can get this type of cancer and tell them that they are very wrong and that they certainly can.

“We need to move away from the view that men are invincible against this form of cancer.

“I hope that my story can be read and used by others to show what can happen and just how easy it is to get checked out and come out on the other side and live a happy, healthy and normal life.”

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