A father-of-three has issued an urgent warning to men after he convinced himself for months his breast cancer diagnosis must have been a mistake.
Mark Martin, from Sydney, received the shock news in 2012 when a lump formed under scar tissue caused by a ‘big, nasty’ boil from when he was a child.
The 54-year-old was in the shower when he first noticed the lump.
‘A few months after that I was at a GP for an unrelated check-up,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I was leaving – I literally had my hand on the door knob to go out – I said: “While I am here this scar tissue has gotten bigger. Should I worry about it”?’
Mark Martin (pictured) was diagnosed with the illness in 2012 when a lump formed under scar tissue he had from a ‘big, nasty’ boil when he was a child
The doctor, erring on the side of caution, ordered a needle biopsy. Mr Martin was told the results showed he ductal carcinoma in situ – the earliest form of breast cancer.
Almost immediately he was scheduled for a mastectomy where doctors cut 30cm across his chest, 12cm down and 2cm deep for ‘something the size of a small pea’.
They removed four lymph nodes to make sure the cancer cells hadn’t spread into his glands.
Despite all this, Mr Martin was certain doctors were wrong about his diagnosis.
‘I didn’t believe them – even after I had the operation I didn’t believe that men could get breast cancer,’ he said.
‘I thought the medical fraternity had got it wrong because men don’t get breast cancer.’
After the surgery, Mr Martin didn’t understand that he wasn’t going to die.
‘I still thought I had top of the rung cancer and it was going to kill me,’ he said.
The doctor, leaning on the side of caution, ordered a needle biopsy. Mr Martin (pictured) was told the results showed he ductal carcinoma in situ – the earliest form of breast cancer
Mr Martin said it wasn’t until one of his follow-up appointments when a doctor explained cancer was like a ladder that he realised he was in the clear.
He said the top rung of the ladder was stage four cancer and the bottom rung – where he was – is the early stages.
At the time his three sons were ten, eight and six and his eldest asked him questions such as ‘Daddy, are you dying?’ as he associated the cancer with death.
Almost immediately he was scheduled for a mastectomy where doctors cut 30cm across his chest, 12cm down and 2cm deep for ‘something the size of a small pea’. They removed four lymph nodes to make sure the cancer cells hadn’t spread to his glands (mastectomy stock image)
Mr Martin (pictured) said he didn’t understand for seven months after his surgery he wasn’t going to be killed by the cancer
Mr Martin said at the time he was unable to speak other men about it – but he has since opened up.
‘The question that always comes up is “are you embarrassed” or [comments such as] “breast cancer is a women’s thing”. I’ve never had any concerns about that,’ he said.
Mr Martin said some people do get embarrassed, but his focus was confronting it.
‘Once I knew the facts – that it wasn’t just me and lots of men can get it – that makes you want to crush it, challenge it and talk about,’ he said.
One in 675 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every year.
Mr Martin said he believes there should be more awareness of the one in 675 men who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every year
‘Someone once suggested that the pink ribbon should have a little blue spot on it and [I think] that would generate a million conversations,’ he said.
In the meantime he advises men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to contact other men who have had the disease.
‘They can give you advice. There needs to be some sort of men’s forum,’ he said.
Mr Martin said he hardly thinks about his cancer diagnosis – only when he speaks on behalf of the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
He said he hadn’t spoken to a GP about it for three years,
‘It is a road bump i had in my life a few years ago. Something else will kill me, but this wont be it,’ he said.
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS FOR BREAST CANCER?
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.
One in 675 men are diagnosed every year.
More than 3,000 people will die because of cancer this year.
The five-year survival rates have improved from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.
There are five stages of breast cancer:
- Stage 0 is pre-invasive
- Stage I and II are early breast cancer
- Stage III is locally advanced
- Stage IV is advanced breast cancer, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body
One form of treatment is a mastectomy, which is the removal of the entire breast.
Source: National Breast Cancer Foundation