Editor’s Note: Movember is an annual event for which men grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of various men’s health issues, with the ultimate goal to reduce the number of men dying prematurely. While Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week is the third week of October, Breastcancer.org Community member Traveltext wants to share his story in November to let people know that breast cancer is also a health issue that affects men.
A recent survey has found that 80% of men at higher risk of breast cancer aren’t aware that they can be diagnosed with the disease. While men make up just 1% of the total breast cancer diagnoses, this is the same percentage as women under 30 who are diagnosed. Let’s make sure men are aware of their risks, particularly those with a family history of the disease.
I’m a 66-year-old man, two years post-treatment for inflammatory breast cancer, happy to share my experiences and, particularly, to help raise awareness. Upon [my] diagnosis, friends and family reflected the community’s varying understanding about males and breast cancer in that most were unaware that guys get this disease, too.
It took me three months to convince my general physician that my breast lumps needed scanning, despite a family history of breast cancer. This meant that I was diagnosed at stage IIIB and had to undergo neoadjuvant treatment consisting of chemo, surgery with axillary clearance, and radiation. I tolerated the treatment well and am now on tamoxifen. I am always quick to point out that the care I received was first class and as equal to that of the many women I was treated alongside. Subsequent genetic testing showed that I had a variation of the BRCA1 gene of an unknown significance. Naturally, I let my three male siblings and my son know of their risk, and my 43-year-old daughter has joined a screening program.
I’d have to say that I felt no stigma as a man with this disease, although as I sought help from discussion forums like Breastcancer.org, it struck me that I really was one of the few guys looking for help. I also realized that many pink charities were not doing enough to point out that many men, particularly those with a genetic predisposition, are not being made aware of their risk.
Despite the male breast cancer discussion boards here being rarely used in recent times, I found support and went on to give support to a wonderful group of women at my cancer stage. Since no men posted regularly, I supposed that most guys are loathe to discuss their condition here because they were embarrassed by their diagnosis or that they don’t believe women’s experiences could help them. However, I have had private messages from several men looking for support outside a public posting and have used my training as a cancer connect telephone counselor to help them with advice, but mostly just to listen to their concerns.
Two years post treatment for breast cancer, my general physician was alarmed at a steep rise in my PSA level, so she sent me to a urologist for scans. Sure enough, a 16 mm tumor was discovered on one side of my prostate, and a biopsy showed an intermediate grade cancer with a Gleason score of 7. I have just completed a successful robotic prostatectomy where the pathology proved clear margins and no lymph involvement. Naturally I’m very pleased to discover that no further treatment is necessary. It turns out that nearly 30% of men who get breast cancer go on to develop a prostate cancer.
It’s interesting to record that it took me seven months to get NED with breast cancer and just seven days to achieve the same result for my prostate cancer.
Since later diagnosis leads to poorer prognosis, let’s help men with awareness, screen those with hereditary risk, and encourage research on male breast cancer.