Dad, 33, battles breast cancer

Jamie Cox, 33, has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Jamie Cox, 33, has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Photo: Mark Taylor

Breast cancer never crossed Jamie Cox's mind.

But at 32, the dad was diagnosed with the disease - and as a male, he was one of the less than 1 per cent of all new breast cancer sufferers that year.

After undergoing a mastectomy to remove the lump, the New Zealander, from Matamata, now wants to warn other men about the very real risk to their lives.

Jamie Cox (centre) with (from left) Hunter, 10, Jake, 16, Chloe, 1, partner Marie Waring, Hayden, 8, and Mason, 11.
Jamie Cox (centre) with (from left) Hunter, 10, Jake, 16, Chloe, 1, partner Marie Waring, Hayden, 8, and Mason, 11.  Photo: Teresa Hattan

At first Cox, now 33, simply thought he had a cyst or some sort of infection on his nipple.

"It was just a lump that showed up on my nipple, and it got bigger," he said.

The lump had been there for a few years, but the panelbeater hadn't paid it much attention until it began to turn scabby.

That's when he thought he'd better get it checked.

Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer was certainly shocking for the fit and healthy step-dad of Jake, 16, Mason, 11, Hunter, 10, Hayden, 8, and dad of Chloe, 1.

Like most people, Cox was unaware that breast cancer could even occur in men, and the first few days after his diagnosis were a blur for him and his partner, Marie Waring.

"We got told so much stuff that it all went over my head," he says.

Six weeks later he had a mastectomy; surgeons removed his breast, nipple and some lymph nodes. He had a month off work after the surgery as complications developed with the wound.

Reconstruction was an option, but Cox decided against this. "I'm not worried about it," he said.

The keen sportsman has six months of chemotherapy ahead of him, before a week of radiation. He will then be on a hormone drug for up to five years.

Doctors treated male breast cancer very similarly to female breast cancer and he described the whole process to date as "pretty scary".

Due to the rarity, he had also undergone genetic testing to see if he carried the BRCA gene, which increases the chances of your children having breast cancer. He wants to make sure his daughter Chloe has a plan in place should she have it.

Dr Marion Kuper, clinical director of medical oncology at Waikato Hospital, said it was quite rare for a man of Cox's age to get breast cancer.

"In developed countries it comprises approximately 1 per cent of all breast cancers," she said.

None of the four patients Dr Kuper had treated in the last couple of years were under 50 at diagnosis.

"As with women, the incidence of breast cancer in men rises with age, although men tend to be approximately five to 10 years older than women at the time of diagnosis. Male breast cancers are generally strongly hormone receptor positive and this type of breast cancer typically presents at an older age," she said.

Male breast cancer facts

  • Most men with breast cancer generally presented with a painless, firm mass. Between 40 and 50 per cent will notice changes to their nipples.
  • Men are advised to check for cancer the same as women: regularly check breasts for lumps or skin changes, particularly if they are at risk.
  • Risk factors for male breast cancer include age (risk increases as age increases), obesity, liver dysfunction, marijuana use, thyroid disease, an inherited condition (such as Klinefelter syndrome), a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and excessive estrogen stimulation due to hormonal therapies.