No more shame, stigma or silence: Brian’s breast cancer story

Brian Lynch

February 28, 2024

Brian Lynch, currently a patient of the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) started noticing some troubling symptoms in his right breast area from December 2020 and into 2021. 

At first, he saw that his right nipple was flat and slightly inverted, then over the next few months, when he would touch the right side of his chest, he felt a burning pain. The nipple became increasingly swollen and red. Finally, in late April 2021, while he was preparing for work, he felt a fleshy-feeling lump in the right side of his breast.

“I had searched my symptoms previously and feared it might be breast cancer, but as soon as I found the lump, I thought, ‘Well, here we go’,” Lynch shares. “I called my doctor’s office for an appointment and was able to be seen a few days later.”


After Lynch made the appointment, he went to feel the lump again and found a second small, hard, pea-sized lump. “I took a look in my mirror and asked myself how I was going to deal with this,” says Lynch.

Lynch’s doctor examined him and sent him for a mammogram as soon as possible. “I had my mammogram at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) and it was quite an experience for a man to face. After the mammogram I had an ultrasound so they could get a better idea as to what they were seeing in their imaging,” explains Lynch. “After those procedures, I also had a biopsy.”

He was in his basement doing laundry when he received the call from his doctor’s office confirming his worst fears – he was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in his right breast. He had breast cancer.


Lynch received treatment at STEGH as part of the South West Regional Cancer Program (SWRCP). The SWRCP oversees the quality and delivery of cancer services for Grey, Bruce, Perth, Middlesex, Oxford, Elgin and part of Norfolk counties.

He was given a positive prognosis because it was caught early and treated quickly, which is key to a successful outcome. 

Lynch had surgery to remove the cancer, and then received three months of chemotherapy. “It was rough,” shares Lynch. “I had the support of my family and friends, and I’m very grateful for that, but from my diagnosis and through treatment, I just wanted someone like me to talk with about our common experience and to ask questions about their treatment to find similarities or differences. I simply wanted to connect with a man who had gone through male breast cancer and could understand, but there was no one.”

Breast cancer in men 

The Canadian Cancer Society’s statistics note that less than one per cent of breast cancers occur in men with an estimate that about 260 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed and about 55 will die from the disease (2023 statistics).

Women and men who have breast cancer do not have a common, shared experience due to the differences in their bodies, body chemistry and the social-emotional effects of the disease of their gender. When looking for male support groups, or for other men who had gone through breast cancer treatment, Lynch kept finding dead ends. 

“I felt like I was an outsider looking in. There were no groups or supports for men with breast cancer when I needed it most,” explains Lynch. “As hard as it is for me, I knew I had to be that voice and was inspired to create a culture of change so the experience wouldn’t be as lonely for other men diagnosed with this disease as it was for me.”

Lynch’s advocacy

Since Lynch finished his treatment in September 2021, he has been advocating for more education, awareness and support for men diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lynch started The Bottoni Project in October 2021. Named for his surgeon and project partner, Dr. David Bottoni, Lynch says, “Dr. Bottoni’s kindness, positivity, encouragement and advocacy and extraordinary surgical skills saved my life. Dr. Bottoni is also a metaphor for all the amazing health care providers, care givers, support workers, clerical staff and volunteers at STEGH who stood beside me in my sickness and recovery.” 

In August 2022, the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Foundation began working with Lynch’s The Bottoni Project. Together, through the STEGH Foundation’s Transforming Tomorrow Campaign, they have helped raise money to bring MRI technology to STEGH, as well as enhanced and expanded the Diagnostic Imaging department. Diagnostic imaging helps in the detection, treatment and monitoring of cancer. Dr. Bottoni, an avid motorcyclist, created an annual charity motorcycle ride called The Bottoni Ride to raise money for this campaign and for male breast cancer awareness in the London area. 

“Whenever I talk about this, some common responses are ‘I didn’t know men had breasts’ or ‘I didn’t know men could get breast cancer’,” shares Lynch. “This is part of the important messaging I want to get out there so the experience isn’t so alienating for men when they’re diagnosed.” 

He also recently spoke at the SWRCP Ontario Breast Screening Program Community of Practice, an in-person meeting of care providers from across South Western Ontario,  and shared his story and the painful realities of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a man in Canada. 

Through his experience, he was informed that men also carry the BRCA gene mutation that can make them susceptible to developing breast cancer. “There are many men out there whose female relatives have had breast cancer and don’t know they might have the BRCA gene mutation too,” says Lynch. “Who is making these men aware they are susceptible to breast cancer just like the women in their family?”

“This is not to take away from the experiences of women with breast cancer. I think the reason why there isn’t that visibility around men who have breast cancer is because of shame and stigma that men feel having a disease that is largely attributed to women,” Lynch explains. “Men are embarrassed and ashamed and therefore silent. I want to help create a space for men so the experience of having breast cancer isn’t so lonely.” 

While Lynch no longer has breast cancer, he has follow-up appointments with a physician at the London Regional Cancer Program at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). He also has to continue to take medication as part of ongoing preventative care, and still experiences side effects from his chemotherapy treatments. But that isn’t stopping him from continuing to share his story and helping men who are diagnosed with breast cancer to have a community of supporters as they embark on their treatment journeys.

Lynch continues to be a patient advocate, bringing awareness to men in Canada about male breast cancer. He will keep advocating for continued research and education in the hopes of bringing equity for men diagnosed with breast cancer.

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