Men Get Breast Cancer Too!

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It wasn’t so long ago that breast cancer in women wasn’t spoken about above a whisper. Women didn’t go public about their breast cancer. Now, celebrities share their breast cancer diagnosis in the media. In doing so, they raise awareness about breast cancer, and awareness saves lives.

After decades of silence, male breast cancer survivors are going public about their breast cancer journeys. They are carrying a very important message, “Men have breasts; men get breast cancer too.” While the number of males diagnosed with breast cancer, each year is about 2,000+, many of them are being diagnosed at later stages of the disease, when treatment needs to be more aggressive and their prognoses are less favorable.

Why are men getting diagnosed at more advanced stages? Most men are not aware they can get breast cancer. Men often do not get annual physicals. Comprehensive breast exams are not a routine part of a male physical, and men don’t get mammograms. Some feel embarrassed at the possibility of having a woman's disease, and then there is the fear factor. Consequently lumps and thickenings often go unnoticed or unattended until they can be seen or cause pain.

When Bret Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2010, he was 24 years old. He founded The Bret Miller 1T Foundation to give male breast cancer a voice. For the past five years, Bret and other survivors have been going into high schools and colleges, across the country, raising awareness that men get breast cancer too.

In 2014, Bret Miller and Cheri Ambrose connected on Facebook, coming together around their mutual mission of spreading male breast cancer awareness in an effort to save lives and reduce the stigma and isolation experienced by men diagnosed with what is considered a woman’s disease.

Cheri’s interest in male breast cancer began in 2009, when the husband of a friend was diagnosed, and she witnessed his embarrassment and loneliness.  Cheri partnered with the Komen Foundation in a successful campaign to spread awareness of male breast cancer. 

Together, Bret and Cheri formed the Male Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) an organization that gives men, diagnosed with breast cancer, the most up-to-date research findings and resource information including testing, and expert care.

MBCC has been a family affair since day one. Bret’s brother Blake, a computer whiz, designed the MBCC website. Bret’s dad, Bob, maintains the website while his mom, Peggy, manages the site, responds to calls, and sets up local events. 

Lori Berlin, a producer and writer, became active in the work of MBCC as a result her relationship with a newly discovered male cousin who had metastatic breast cancer. Lori uses social media to reach out to male breast cancer survivors all over the world, and engages them in sharing their stories through MBCC. She is finishing the male breast cancer documentary, “Men Have Breasts Too."

The MBCC website provides male breast cancer survivors with a forum to share with each other and with those newly diagnosed and in need of support.

The Voices of Male Breast Cancer:

Jose Luis Gonzalez - I am 52 years old, and until breast cancer was a healthy, active male. I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, and had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In 2014, I learned my breast cancer is a Stage 4. It metastasized to my lungs and brain. Recently, I was told my treatments were no longer working.  My message for men, “Check your breasts; get them checked.”

Vincent Moltisanti - I’m a 10 year breast cancer survivor. When my wife noticed that the nipple on my left breast was indented, I went for tests that confirmed breast cancer. My cancer, a Stage 2, was treated with a mastectomy and chemotherapy. After learning I was positive for two mutations of the BRCA2 gene, my son and daughter were tested. My son was negative, but my daughter tested positive for BRCA2. She was preparing for prophylactic surgeries when she got large cell lung cancer. I had my right breast removed once I knew I had BRCA2 since my chances were high for developing more breast cancer. 

Since my breast cancer, I have been a patient navigator for the American Cancer Society, which gave me the opportunity to help women and men with breast cancer, and hopefully make their experiences a little easier. My message, “Breast cancer is not a woman’s disease; it’s a disease of the breasts. Men have breasts and breast tissue, and some men develop breast cancer.”

N’Kosi Campbell - I am 35 years old and a 15 year US Army Ranger and veteran. I have always led a very healthy lifestyle. I never smoked or drank and am an active person. So when I noticed a hard lump in my chest I really didn’t pay it any mind until it started to pain me. After several tests, I was told I had breast cancer!

How could a healthy male get breast cancer? I was so embarrassed by it, I didn’t even tell my parents, family or friends. I know now it’s not a women’s disease. Cancer is a non-bias, non-gender oriented, non-racial disease. My message, "Breast cancer can affect everyone regardless of color, physical stature, financial status, age or gender."

 Oliver Bogler- I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2012. I am a cancer biologist and work at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the leading cancer centers in the world. I completed my active treatment – 6 months of chemo, surgery and then radiation – mid-2013, and have been taking Tamoxifen since then. I have also participated in several trials

My wife, Irene Newsham, Ph.D., is also a cancer biologist, and she preceded me with breast cancer by five years. We had very similar diagnoses, and nearly identical treatment plans – and are both doing well. 

I blog about the latest research on this disease and my personal journey at malebreastcancerblog.org and Tweet @obogler. My message, "Men get breast cancer, and they need support in getting through this diagnosis."

 Michael Kovarik - I was a Stage 1 breast cancer when diagnosed. If I had put fear in its place rather than the driver's seat, I would  have sought out treatment sooner. I strive to remove the stigma so many of us men have with this disease by encouraging survivors to speak up and share their experiences. By sharing we help to raise awareness, we help to inform, we help to save lives. When survivors speak about breast cancer, we educate our medical community on how men experience  this disease- emotionally and physically, and we bring to the forefront of this discussion, the dire need for more funding and research of effective treatments specifically designed for men.My message, “What I would like men to know is that breast cancer does not discriminate. It is not a 'woman's' disease - it is an equal opportunity invader.”

As a result of the efforts of MBCC, governors of many states across the U.S., have proclaimed the third week of October Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week in their states.

Join The Male Breast Cancer Coalition in spreading the word about male breast cancer. Go to their site and get information you can share with the men in your life and the women who love them

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