Breast Cancer in men

Other people's reactions to breast cancer in men

Most of the men who were interviewed had chosen to be very open about having breast cancer. Their reasons for wanting people to know, or not minding if they found out, were quite varied. Many of them wanted to tell everyone and felt that they should ‘spread the word’ that men could get breast cancer because so few people, often themselves included, had known about breast cancer in men before their diagnosis.

Other men were quite happy for other people to know they had breast cancer, but they didn’t necessarily go out of their way to tell people. Derek said it ‘wasn’t something that you stood at the top of the street and shouted’, although the news could ‘spread like wildfire’. Others felt that it was just easier if other people knew. Some said that they shouldn’t need to keep it secret or feel embarrassed about having breast cancer.
However, not everyone felt comfortable telling people that they had breast cancer. Some chose only to tell their close family and friends, and acquaintances did not know. Stuart was only happy to be open about his illness once he had had a chance to get over the initial shock of his diagnosis.
The men found that news of their diagnosis provoked some very varied reactions in other people. Most people were shocked or surprised because they didn’t realise that men could get breast cancer. Sometimes this shock took the form of frank disbelief.
A few men felt that people didn’t know what to say when they heard about their illness and they worried about causing them embarrassment or discomfort. 

Sometimes people took some convincing that they actually did have breast cancer initially, but then were very supportive.

Many of the other men had also received supportive reactions from friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Some of the men had had different reactions to their illness from men and women. Some found that other men were uncomfortable talking about it. They tended to change the topic of conversation when their breast cancer came up, and they seemed not to want to know that men could get breast cancer. 

A few men even described how they had had, or feared they might get, openly hostile reactions from other men. By contrast, these men had found that women were often keen to hear more about their illness and wanted to find out how they were feeling.


Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.

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