Just before the holiday, the BBC published an article featuring a UK man, Peter Bagnall, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and was denied surgery to produce a symmetric aesthetic result, causing him immense emotional distress. Men represent less than 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses, but that number represents thousands of men every year in the US alone. Although they may not talk about their aesthetic result as much as women do, men’s experience matters. The parallels of Peter’s experience with those of the female flat denial survivors featured here on NPoaS are striking.
“After I had a mastectomy, I felt terrible looking in the mirror. I always thought I didn’t have a body image problem as a man, but I felt lopsided… I was not offered the chance to go flat or reconstruction. I spoke to them about it, but it came across that they thought I was weird for wanting another mastectomy. I just wanted both sides to be the same.” – Peter
Peter had to undergo psychiatric testing in order to get his second mastectomy to produce a result he could live with – patients have had similar experiences in the US, but thankfully it is no longer the standard of care (further discussion here). He was also suffering from the loss of his wife from metastatic breast cancer during this time – unimaginable.
After Peter’s second mastectomy, a nurse at his treatment center brought up the idea of having nipple tattoos. These tattoos have become more popular in recent years for female patients.
“Men show nipples more than women do. I was not able to swim for years and years without keeping my top on and I lost the enjoyment of swimming I used to have. Now when I swim, I feel a lot more confident.” – Peter
The bottom line is that no matter one’s gender identity, having a cosmetic result that the patient can live with following mastectomy is critically important for their quality of life.