Staff accolades

Male breast cancer patient praises supportive team at Royal Derby Hospital who supported him through treatment

Mike Burrows underwent treatment for breast cancer at UHDB

A male breast cancer patient has praised the team at Royal Derby Hospital's Breast Unit for the care they provided to him after his recent treatment for the disease.

69-year-old Mike Burrows, from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, says he felt "out of his depth" as a male undergoing treatment for a condition largely associated with females, and heaped praise on the incredibly "supportive" team who helped him through his treatment.

Mike was diagnosed with breast cancer after undergoing tests, however he said things could have been very different if he hadn't "put pride aside" and contacted his GP after finding a small lump under his arm.

Mike explained: "I was in the shower one morning and I felt a small lump and just passed it off as something that would go away by itself. Then I felt it again in the days that followed and asked my wife if she could see or feel anything - and she said there was something there on closer inspection.

"I wasn't quite sure what to do next, and I almost didn't phone my GP but when I did, I found myself being almost apologetic for bothering them for something which I assumed to be nothing.

"But after describing the lump to the receptionist, who spoke to a clinical colleague, I was booked in for an appointment the following day. It was then that I was referred to Royal Derby Hospital, had a biopsy taken and was then told that it was in fact a cancerous lump."

Breast cancer is often thought to be a condition that only affects women, with less than one per cent of all breast cancers in the UK being diagnosed in men. However, when this occurs, it typically affects men over the age of 60, but can very occasionally affect younger men.

Following his diagnosis, Mike began treatment and had a right-side mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy, and is incredibly thankful to the team for their life-saving care.

He said: "When I walked into the Breast Unit for my first appointment, I was very aware that I was the only man in the department. Had I not been a stronger character, I might have felt a bit overwhelmed by the situation and not gone through with it. However, the team made me feel so calm and my worries subsided and the care I went on to receive was excellent.

Members of the Breast Unit team at Royal Derby Hospital "Psychologically, as a man going through breast cancer, it was quite difficult to get my head around and I did feel a bit lost. The team recognised that I was in a typically female environment and everyone was very supportive. I'm incredibly grateful for everything they've done for me clinically and to support me in a more general sense."

Mike has shared his experiences as a male accessing treatment in the Breast Unit with the team, which has helped them make some changes to ensure all patients feel welcome and comfortable, regardless of their gender.

Jackie Conway, Lead Breast Care Nurse at UHDB, said Mike's feedback of his experiences have been invaluable to the team:

"When we talk about breast cancer patients, it's more common in women than men, but it can affect anyone. We only tend to treat a handful of male patients each year - but it certainly is something that affects everyone. It is just as important for men to be aware of this - breast cancer can affect anyone.

"We're really grateful for Mike's feedback as it helps us to continually develop our services and we've actually changed some of the posters in the unit to make them gender neutral to ensure all patients feel more comfortable. We're also changing the literature available to patients to make this more inclusive for everyone.

"I'm proud of the team for the care they offer to every patient, and the same can be said for the wrap-around care provided to Mike."

After seeing his story covered across the UK and in mainland Europe, Mike is using his experiences to raise awareness of the disease and encourage men who may feel uncomfortable about approaching breast cancer, or any other health condition, to seek healthcare advice at the earliest possible convenience.

He explained: "I hope my story encourages men to not cast their doubts aside and if they have health concerns, particularly regarding breast cancer, to get checked. I am so glad that I called my GP and got it checked out otherwise I might not be here today to talk about it.

"The lack of awareness of this form of cancer in men is eye opening; even some women I've spoken to didn't realise men can get breast cancer so I want to do my bit and help to raise awareness of this."

Jackie added that spotting the signs early is vital and gave advice about what to look out for:

"If you notice any changes that are abnormal to your body, such as lumps, discharge, visual changes to breast tissue and the nipple, please get it checked out. Sometimes the lumps can be tiny and so they can go under the radar, which is why it's so important to check yourself on a regular basis." 

Women are invited to take part in the national NHS Breast Screening Programme from the age of 50, with invitations sent for routine mammograms every three years.

Anyone who is worried about breast concern should speak to their GP at the earliest possible opportunity for advice and referral to the breast unit if appropriate.

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