‘Men don’t get breast cancer’: Coodanup man busts common myth

Unexpected: John Marriner and wife Kaye opened up about their struggles with John's breast cancer diagnosis and what followed. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.
Unexpected: John Marriner and wife Kaye opened up about their struggles with John's breast cancer diagnosis and what followed. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

A Coodanup man could not believe his ears, when his doctor informed him the lump on his chest was breast cancer.

“Men don’t get breast cancer,” John Marriner thought, after he noticed the small lump in the shower. 

“I looked in the mirror and I could see it was different colouring to the other. I thought it must be something else.”

Mr Marriner said the lump quickly grew, in the space of days to “the size of a golf ball”.

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The medical process was speedy, and in the space of two-weeks, Mr Marriner had received tests, ultrasounds, and a mastectomy.

Four-weeks later, he commenced chemotherapy, that would last for six-months.

“We were told it was aggressive and it could of been a deadly situation,” he said. 

The 68-year-old said his friends were in disbelief when he told them of his diagnosis, and “90 per cent were shocked that men get breast cancer.”

“It’s as though I was kidding them,” he said. “I thought, when I get better, I am going to push that men get checked.”

Mr Marriner said he was hospitalised for five-days after being put on a hormone replacement drug, typically used for women with breast cancer.

“Male and female hormones are completely different and my body did not like it,” he said.

“They haven’t been able to do tests on men with breast cancer because there hasn’t been enough. All they can do is treat me as a female...and take notes.”

Mr Marriner’s wife Kaye said doctors and counsellors had been “very good” support, but he had not been able to join breast cancer groups. 

“It’s hard...women are okay in a group of women and they can talk openly...but if John was to be there, they would clam up. We respect that,” she said. 

“But no-one in our family had ever had cancer, so it was tough. Who do we speak to?”

Mr Marriner has since advocated for people, especially men, to check for breast cancer.

He said  Purple Bra Day, that raises funds for Breast Cancer Care WA during the month of May and June, was an initiative he will be supporting. 

The symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to that of women and include a breast lump, thickening of breast tissue and a change in shape of the breast or nipple, according to Cancer Council Australia.

Visit Cancer Australia for information on finding support:  https://canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/living-cancer/finding-support or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.