An Unexpected Diagnosis
- Lincoln, Nebraska resident Robert Zarek was shocked when he found a lump in his breast in 2017, then shortly after, wound up finding out it was breast cancer.
- Robert’s doctor encouraged him to undergo genetic testing, which is thankfully getting increasingly more standard these days as medicine, education, and insurance coverage improves.
- Treatment for male breast cancer is largely the same as female breast cancer. A person’s options depend greatly on a variety of factors, including the size of the tumor and how far the cancer cells have spread, but possibilities include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy.
“It was intense pain. It about dropped me to my knees,” Zarek recalled of the scary moment to Nebraska’s ABC8. “Lo and behold, it was breast cancer.”Read More
“I came back positive for this brip1 gene,” Zarek said. “They didn’t know too much about it back then except that it increased the chances in females of breast and ovarian cancer. They asked if I had any sisters or brothers with daughters, that they should get tested.”
Both of sisters were positive for the gene, but his brother’s result came back negative.
“My oldest sister, Cathy, went and got tested, and she came back positive,” Zarek said. “She got a hysterectomy, and unfortunately, there were beginning, early stages of cancer in her fallopian tube.”
Robert acknowledges the special circumstance and sacrifice that fell on him in order to protect his family.
“I mean, it’s unexplainable,” he said. “I mean, to me, it’s actually God working in mysterious ways.”
“The good thing about me getting cancer, I guess, and doing the genetic testing, is that it caught my sister’s cancer in the early stages when it’s easier to deal with,” Zarek added of the emotional family experience.
What Is Male Breast Cancer?
The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833 for men. In addition, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States in 2022.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer Can Include:
- A lump developed in the breast (usually painless), or a thickening in the breast tissue
- Nipple pain
- An inverted nipple
- Discharge from the nipple, which may be clear or bloody (this was Mathew Knowles’ first symptom)
- Changes to the color or texture of the nipple and areola
- Changes to the color or texture of skin on the chest
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
Treatment for male breast cancer is largely the same as female breast cancer. A person’s options depend greatly on a variety of factors, including the size of the tumor and how far the cancer cells have spread, but possibilities include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy.
Men Speaking Up About Breast Cancer
Marc Futterweit is a two-time breast cancer survivor … and he knows first-hand that the shame that comes with a diagnosis of male breast cancer can be quite debilitating. The urge to just ignore the symptoms and tell yourself breast cancer is a woman’s disease may sway you from getting screened.
But Marc has become an advocate for the disease, and is now dedicated to halting that way of thinking.
“Men are basically standing in the shadows,” Marc says. “They’re ashamed or embarrassed … this is a woman’s disease. [But] why can’t men get breast cancer?” A lot of people assume men can’t even get breast cancer because they don’t have breasts, but that’s not the case.
That’s why Marc’s philosophy is “if you feel something, say something.” He detected his own cancer when he felt an odd lump on his chest during a shower. He admits, he was baffled when his doctor suggested he get a mammogram, but in reality, it probably saved his life. “The problem with men is that they wait, and they think things are going to go away,” Marc says. “Once they’re diagnosed, sometimes it’s too late.”
Contributing by SurvivorNet staff.