Walthamstow dad-of-five diagnosed with breast cancer didn't know men could get the disease

Doug Harper at home in east London
Doug Harper at home in east London Credit: BPM Media

A dad-of-five who was diagnosed breast cancer said he had no idea men could get the disease, and even his pharmacist was confused by the diagnosis.

Doug Harper, 61, is now on a mission to spread the word to other men and make sure they get checked. Since his diagnosis in 2012, the former Walthamstow print worker has spent the last decade telling people about the illness.

"A day after I was diagnosed I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription of tamoxifen," he said.

"The pharmacist then said ‘this can’t be for you, it’s for women with breast cancer’. I said to him ‘men can get breast cancer too mate’." He continued: "It was tough for someone to say that in a full pharmacy. That’s the first time I said that sentence and I must’ve said it a million times since." Doug, who is now a charity worker, said his journey with breast cancer started in mid-2011 when he spotted a cyst on his left nipple.

Doug started a forum to help men talk about breast cancer Credit: BPM Media

Although it was only causing slight irritation, he decided to visit the GP just before Christmas. "I get on well with my GP so initially we were chatting and laughing, but after I took my top off his whole manner changed," he said. He was quickly booked in for tests at the hospital, and was diagnosed with the disease three days before his 50th birthday.

Although his initial reaction was one of shock at the word cancer, Doug's focus then turned to how he didn't know men could get breast cancer - while most of his family and friends also didn't. He said: "I thought something good needs to come out of this so I’ll start a blog to raise awareness.

"It started to get attention from charities, and since then I’ve been doing loads of work to spread the word." The dad-of-five, who now lives in South East London, sees 2012 as his cancer year, as after having chemo in spring he was declared cancer-free in mid-December.

But this happy result didn't stop his mission in spreading awareness that men too suffer from breast cancer. Each year, 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer and the death rate is higher among men. This is because many don't realise they have the disease or have been misdiagnosed. As Doug had no other men to talk to about having breast cancer, he started a men's forum with the help of Asda Tickled Pink. This allows men with breast cancer to chat over video call about their experiences. His work with Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel! also led to an EastEnders storyline in which character Stuart Highway, played by Ricky Champ, suffered from the disease.

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