Jim Allen, 65, who lives in Llangollen, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 after seeing an advert that said not just women need to check for breast lumps.
This year, Jim is taking part in The Show by Breast Cancer Now. This is a fashion show like no other as the 24 models taking to the catwalk are all living with or beyond breast cancer.
Jim said: “When I saw the advert that said everyone should check for breast lumps I did just that. I felt a small, hidden pea-sized lump in the middle of my chest, but my doctor said it was just a cyst.
“I didn’t think men got breast cancer, and certainly not in the middle of their chests, so I wasn’t too concerned. However, when I lost weight three years later in 2018, the hidden cyst became a red-looking, round lump. I went back to the doctor who removed it and sent it for a biopsy. The results came back- I had male breast cancer.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with around 55,000 women and 400 men diagnosed every year. Breast cancer in men is very rare, but most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected too.
Jim continued: “I didn’t know what to think! A week later I was in the cancer ward, I had a mammogram. It was stage three breast cancer, I needed my lymph nodes removed, a mastectomy, radiotherapy and I’m now on medication for 10 years which I’ve found difficult.
“Whilst my cancer ward was amazing, I never met any men going through breast cancer. There are quite a few support groups for women, and maybe men in general are less talkative about medical problems. It made me feel really lonely.
“Maybe men might find it embarrassing to talk about breast cancer and put off this sort of thing. I think we need to get men talking about it, checking for signs and doing something about any worries they have. I get it, I didn’t know you could get breast cancer as a man either! If as a man you find a cyst on your chest, get it checked! It could be something else- you never know.”
In 2007 Breast Cancer Now launched the Male Breast Cancer Study, to pinpoint the genetic, environmental and lifestyle causes of breast cancer in men, to help identify those at risk and understand what can be done to lower their chances of developing the disease.
Breast Cancer Now’s Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist, Louise Grimsdell, said: “Many people don’t realise that men can get breast cancer because they don’t think of men as having breasts. However, men do have a small amount of breast tissue.
“The exact causes of breast cancer in men are not fully understood, but certain things may increase risk. This is why Breast Cancer Now funds the Male Breast Cancer Study which investigates what might cause the disease in men.
“It’s important that men get used to checking their chest regularly and are aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. The most common symptom is a lump in the chest area which is often painless. Other symptoms may include discharge from the nipple, a tender or inverted nipple, ulcers on the chest or nipple, or swelling of the chest area or lymph nodes under the arm.
“We urge men to contact their GP if they find any new or unusual changes in their chest area– while most changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions it is, the sooner breast cancer is found the more successful treatment is likely to be. For information and support surrounding signs and symptoms or how to check, speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit: breastcancernow.org/tlc-men.”
Jim is taking part in The Show by Breast Cancer Now this April. All 24 models will be using fashion to celebrate who they have become and reflecting on their experience of breast cancer. The Show is generously supported by a number of brands and individuals who make the event possible, including the models’ make-up by Estée Lauder and hair styled by ghd.
Jim said: “One of my friends took part in The Show by Breast Cancer Now last year, she had a wonderful experience so suggested I apply for 2023. In my heart of hearts, I thought there was no way I’d be picked but I’m over the moon to be one of the 24 models selected!
“I hope that by being part of The Show I can show that men can get breast cancer, I want to raise awareness and encourage men to check their bodies and be open to reaching out for support.”
You can take a virtual front-row seat on 20 April to watch Jim take to the catwalk and find out how you can help make sure that by 2050, everyone diagnosed with breast cancer lives and lives well.
To register to watch The Show virtually and for further information on The Show by Breast Cancer Now please visit: breastcancernow.org/theshowlondon