Michael Greenhalgh

 “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had been a GP for 27 years (I’m now retired) but had never seen a case of breast cancer in men at my surgery, nor had my own GP.

I discovered two lumps in my breasts – one on each side. I noticed a small lump near my left nipple and a smaller swelling on my right breast, although the one on the right was more difficult to find. After a couple of months, my wife, who’s also a GP, prompted me to speak to my own doctor. I have Parkinson’s and we thought it might be a side effect of my medication.

My GP referred me to a consultant surgeon, and I was seen within a few days. A few days after my biopsy, I had a phone call from my consultant asking to see me. I was very surprised when I saw him, and he told me that I had breast cancer. I hadn’t even contemplated that it might be breast cancer.

Outside my work, I’d never met another man with breast cancer until Walk the Walk organized a meeting with myself and five other men affected by breast cancer. I felt the need to be strong to reassure those close to me, but also to remain positive about the outcome of my disease.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on both sides – bilateral breast cancer is very unusual in men. I had a double mastectomy, lymph gland clearance on both sides, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I am also taking Tamoxifen on an ongoing basis, plus I have annual check ups.

I was a little worried about taking drugs usually prescribed for women diagnosed with breast cancer because little is known about breast cancer in men. However, I was happy to take Tamoxifen as I was estrogen positive.

 I’m one of five children and have an identical twin, Bill. After my diagnosis, I and all my siblings were tested for BRCA.  Myself, my older brother and twin brother tested positive for BRCA2 as did one of my sisters. My other sister tested negative.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer myself and the BRCA2 diagnoses for my other relatives has hugely affected the whole family. Some family members have decided not to be tested for BRCA, and for those who have tested positive, it’s a case of them now being the ‘worried well’. I feel that we need more research and understanding of the genetic forms of breast cancer and how they can affect families.

 I didn’t feel anxious, or embarrassed about my diagnosis but I can imagine that a general lack of understanding about breast cancer in men could make some men feel that way. I’ve only had positive reactions when speaking to others about my breast cancer.

I must admit I found it difficult being seen in a female only clinic! I feel men with breast cancer should be seen in general clinics, slotted in at the start of breast clinics for one-stop diagnostic appointments.

I think my twin brother feels guilty that he tested positive for BRCA2, but hasn’t developed breast cancer, like I have, but he’s now just trying to lead as healthy a life as possible. Everything that’s happened has made us even closer.

I received support from Penny Brohn UK while I was going through my treatment. It was very helpful to talk to other people going through cancer and to see what Penny Brohn had to offer. At Penny Brohn I was able to talk about my medication and learn relaxation techniques. They also helped with my well-being, approach to life and living a healthy lifestyle. Whilst I was a GP, I was so busy, but since my diagnosis, I’ve retired, and I now paint watercolors and play a lot of golf.

Back in 2014, my wife Jill had already entered The MoonWalk London (organized by breast cancer charity Walk the Walk), with some other ladies from the surgery where we both worked. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a week before The MoonWalk and got myself added to the team. I completed the 26.2 miles Full Moon, just three days before my surgery and we raised a lot of money. I just had to do it”.

Mike is working with UK breast cancer charity Walk the Walk on their Men Get Breast Cancer Too awareness campaign.


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