A dad was shocked to discover he had breast cancer after suffering from an asthma attack.
Doctors ‘hit the roof’ when they examined Gordon Allen’s chest after he was rushed to Salford Royal in Manchester in 2006.
The 61-year-old, who at the time did not realise men could get this type of cancer, said when he told his boss he had been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer he refused to believe him and demanded paperwork as evidence.
Mr Allen has now spoken out about his diagnosis in a bid to make men aware that it can happen to them as well as women, as part of the Men Get Breast Cancer Too campaign from charity Walk the Walk this male breast cancer awareness week.
He told the Manchester Evening News that he noticed changes to his left nipple – it had inverted and began to crumble – and experienced pain eight months before his asthma attack.
He told the newspaper: “I didn’t go to the doctors to get it checked.
“I thought it looked odd, particularly when it went hard and started to flake.
“But there was no publicity back then, it was the last thing I thought it was.
“It might seem strange but I never knew men could get it and so it never occurred to me that’s what it was.”
Despite being fit to go home from the hospital a few days later following his asthma attack, Gordon was aware something wasn’t right when they made him stay.
He underwent a mammogram and biopsy and was then told the shocking news.
Mr Allen continued: “Once I got to the hospital, they took one look at my chest and hit the roof.
“They weren’t saying a great deal to me but my sister was an orderly nurse at the hospital – she did a bit of asking around for me and I got the impression from her that there was potentially something serious going on with my breast.
“When they eventually told me, I couldn’t believe it. But I felt fairly calm about it.”
He said a male nurse helped him by talking about treatment and reassuring him about the need to stay positive.
Mr Allen said his close friends and family were supportive of but he felt stigma over his condition from his boss in the motor trade.
Within ten days of being diagnosed, he had a mastectomy to remove his breast and had to have time off from his job.
Mr Allen, who hadn’t worked in the job very long, said: “He wouldn’t (his boss) believe it until I brought the paperwork in. He questioned, ‘you’ve got breast cancer? Men don’t get breast cancer. I’ve never heard of that’.
“And then when I went back to work after my breast op, he never spoke to me again. Just passed by me and never talked to me.”
Mr Allen didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy and recovered well from the surgery, however was put on hormone therapy Tamoxifen.
He later learnt the reality of how rare it was to have breast cancer as a man, and still to this day has not met another man in person with the same condition.
In the UK, around 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and around 80 of these men will die each year.
As with women, it usually affects older men aged 60 and above, however it can be found in men of any age, like Gordon in his mid-forties, who also has no history of breast cancer in his family.
Whilst Gordon came off medication for the cancer, he was still on antidepressants as he battled with the aftershock of what had happened to him.
Ever since the trauma, he’s regularly checked his remaining breast and around his scar, and encourages other men to do the same.
He felt alone going through what he did, and only recently discovered other men with breast cancer through the Men Get Cancer Too campaign.
As a community radio presenter for Salford City Radio, he became a cancer champion through Answer Cancer – Greater Manchester’s screening engagement programme.
Through his work there, he discovered the virtual meetups, where men chat online every last Thursday of the month.
The group now has 24 members, with Gordon being the 24th.
Looking back, Gordon believes he’s lucky to be alive and that it was just a “bit of luck” the cancer was spotted after the asthma attack.
He added: “I want to get the message over to as many men as possible that you can get breast cancer and also for men going through it, it’s not necessarily a death sentence.
“Any change at all, get to the doctors immediately, don’t mess around”.
For more information about the Me Get Breast Cancer Too campaign, visit HERE.
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