Former New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner's "brave" revelation that he has undergone a mastectomy will help to break down the stigma around male breast cancer, the National Breast Cancer Foundation says.
Greiner, who was Premier from 1988 to 1992, revealed yesterday that he had his left breast removed in April after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. The 67-year-old reportedly consulted a doctor after noticing a tiny red dot on his shirt last May, but then took several months to have a mammogram and biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis.
The foundation's director of research and investment, Dr Alison Butt, said Greiner's high-profile disclosure put a focus on the disease, which only rarely affected men. "I think he's very brave to come out and openly say that he has had breast cancer, I really think it puts the focus on a disease," Butt said.
"Because of the statistics it's something that we tend to associate with women and I think there is a bit of a stigma around male breast cancer. People may feel that somehow it's a female disease and think, 'Why am I getting it?"'
Male breast cancer is very rare. Just one in 1000 men will contract breast cancer, compared with one in eight women. Butt said men should be alert for symptoms. A lack of awareness about the disease meant it often took longer for men to consult a doctor.
Greiner is said to have been given a clean bill of health and is back at work.
Male breast cancer
Statistics (in Australia):
• Around 125 cases a year compared with 14,000 for women.
• Around 25 deaths a year, compared with 3000 for women.
• Average age is 69.
• 85 per cent of patients survive five years or more.
• Painless lump near nipple.
• Discharge from nipple.
• Change in nipple appearance.
• Change or pain in breast.
• Swollen glands under arm.