Steve Allen didn't know men could get breast cancer, then he was diagnosed

CANCER DIAGNOSIS: Truckie Steve Allen, 60, with his wife Lisa. Steve has breast cancer. Picture: Supplied
CANCER DIAGNOSIS: Truckie Steve Allen, 60, with his wife Lisa. Steve has breast cancer. Picture: Supplied

Steve Allen did not know men could be affected by breast cancer before his own diagnosis.

The 60-year-old truckie has metastatic breast cancer which has spread to his bones, lungs and liver and wants to share his story so that other men become aware of the risks.

According to the NSW Cancer Council, about 140 Australian men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. And as the population ages, this figure is expected to increase.

In 2016, 28 Australian men died of breast cancer.

Mr Allen's experience began in 2010, when he noticed changes to one of his nipples.

He went to a doctor and underwent a biopsy.

"He said 'don't worry about it, it's nothing'. The stuff that came back didn't really say it was nothing, but we didn't get to read any of that, so typical male I suppose, I just never worried about it," Mr Allen said.

"I was doing a lot of work over in Western Australia, I was doing fly-in, fly-out, so didn't really have time for that."

Mr Allen's wife Lisa recalls that when the couple first met, he mentioned it to her.

"He said to me 'part of my nipple is missing. It's nothing to worry about. I've been to the doctor and had a biopsy and whatever and they said it's just a pool of blood stuck there and it will eventually clear up'," Mrs Allen said.

"So, him being a truck driver and working away, he sort of never really worried about it. He used to think 'it will clear up' and used to squeeze the blood out of it and whatever.

"I suppose because the doctor told him it was nothing to worry about, he never did again."

But then, almost four years ago, Mr Allen hurt his back at work.

"I was working for one of the local logging contractors and I was pulling a strap and it let go and I fell down on to the concrete. I ruptured a couple of discs in my back and I was going to the doctor and I said to her 'while I'm here, do you just want to have a look at this. It just doesn't seem to be getting any better'," he said.

"She had one look at it, and maybe being a female doctor, it sort of registered with her straight away what it was and she was horrified when she saw it.

"She did a biopsy and it came back a few days later and she said 'you better come in a see me'.

"So then we went to the oncologist and they did scans and said I was stage four already and there was nothing they could do for me.

"They only gave me two years to live."

Mrs Allen said neither she nor her husband knew men could be affected by breast cancer.

"A lot of people we've told thought that too. A man that I worked with - when I said my partner's got breast cancer - said 'I thought your partner was a man', then he said 'I didn't know men could get it'."

It was quite a surprise to me when they told me. There's no information about males getting breast cancer and I've never, ever heard of any male getting it.

Steve Allen

Mr Allen is currently having oral chemotherapy treatments. It's his third round of chemo and, his wife says, is likely to be ongoing.

He's had numerous treatments including radiation, chemo, having his lungs drained and hormone treatment.

"You just keep going forward. I think what keeps us going is that we always planned to do stuff, and you just look forward to doing things," Mr Allen said.

But travelling is not always easy for Mr Allen.

"When he started off, we didn't know how serious it was. The oncologist told us he had a bit of fluid on his lungs. We went up to Tin Can Bay and he'd had trouble breathing and we went to the hospital at Nambour and they drained five-and-a-half litres of fluid off his lungs," his wife said.

"His lung was completely full of fluid by the time we got up there and his chest was just a great big ulcer.

"When we went in there, they got palliative care to him. They didn't think he was going to last too long at that stage. So we went home again. He had his lung drained again when we got home, then he started chemo after that because the doctor said if he didn't have chemo, he would be dead in three months.

"That was three and a half years ago."

Right now, the couple is in the Northern Territory, not all that far from Uluru. They've just driven a 1000-kilometre stretch on dirt roads, towing a camper trailer.

They plan to stay in the Northern Territory for three or four months before returning home to Tumbarumba.

Mr Allen looks for work where he can find it.

"The biggest problem in Tumbarumba is the cold weather. I cannot stand it. I just cannot get warm," he said.

"I think it's got something to do with the bone cancer."

Cancer Australia says men account for just one per cent of the people diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Even on my oncologist paperwork when I go for scans or blood tests, it's got 'female breast cancer'. It's got nothing about male. There is just no information, nothing out there to tell men to look out for that," Mr Allen said.

"Everything I'd heard and read about breast cancer was for females.

"It was quite a surprise to me when they told me. There's no information about males getting breast cancer and I've never, ever heard of any male getting it.

"I would say to other men to get a second opinion, for sure. It's probably what I should have done. I suppose he told me what I wanted to hear and I had never heard of male breast cancer."

Mr Allen's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help him out. It's here.

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