Living With Male Breast Cancer
- A New York man, 61, who thought his irritated nipple on his chest was a benign case of an ingrown hair. However, a mammogram discovered he had stage 2 breast cancer. He underwent a mastectomy and still faces the possibility of radiation and chemotherapy for treatment.
- Symptoms of male breast cancer can include a lump in the chest or a thickening in the breast tissue, nipple pain, an inverted nipple, discharge from the nipple, which may be clear or bloody, changes to the color or texture of the nipple, and enlarged lymph nodes under the arm.
- Experts say that treating male breast cancer is largely the same as female breast cancer. While men have some special considerations, treatment options depend greatly on various factors, including the size of the tumor, how far the cancer cells have spread, and biological and genetic factors that may be powering your cancer.
- A man’s risk of developing breast cancer may be higher if there’s a history of breast cancer in the family.
A New York man, 61, who thought an irritation on his chest was nothing more than an ingrown hair, is urging other men to pay closer attention to their bodies while in the shower. His nipple irritation turned out to be something he never would have expected – breast cancer.
“I knew that breast cancer in men happens. You know that it’s rare, and you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I hit the reverse lottery,’” Robert George said on the “Today Show.”Read More
Some personal news. pic.twitter.com/n7HZHXrDYv— Robert X George (@RobGeorge) September 19, 2023
“It wasn’t a lump,” he says. “It wasn’t something I was conscious of on a daily basis. I would occasionally notice it when I was in the shower,” he said.
When George finally saw his doctor about the unsuspecting irritation, his doctors initially thought it was something else. However, he underwent a mammogram just to be sure. The biopsy results surprised him.
“Frankly, when I finally did get it looked at, the initial surmising was a subcutaneous cyst, so it’s not just me that minimized what was happening before the stage 1 revelation,” George wrote in an X social media post.
George said his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, so he was familiar with the disease. He underwent a mastectomy (removal of the breast) in his left chest for treatment. His doctors also had to remove some lymph nodes which had traces of cancer. He is expected to undergo radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams such as X-rays to target cancer cells and kill them. He also may need chemotherapy, but that’s uncertain at this time.
George, a comedian, says he has quite a bit of material after his cancer diagnosis. Most of all, he’s urging others – especially men – to be mindful of anything unusual happening with their bodies.
“Pay attention to the odd moles, abrasions, bumps, etc.,” he said.
Helping Patients Cope with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Understanding a New Breast Cancer Diagnosis: An Introduction
- Acupuncture Promising for Pain Relief from Some Breast Cancer Treatment
- Chemo Plus Immunotherapy for Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
- It’s All About Awareness and Education — Why I Advocate for Male Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Drugs Are Rarely Tested in Male Patients — Now The FDA Wants to Fix That
Understanding Male Breast Cancer
Like women, men have breast tissue and can develop breast cancer. Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast start growing out of control, typically forming a tumor that’s felt as a lump.
WATCH: Men Get Breast Cancer Too
A man’s risk of developing breast cancer may be higher if there’s a history of breast cancer in the family. Typically, male breast cancer manifests as lumps in the chest area. Factors like a patient’s race can impact the prognosis. Five types of standard treatment are used to treat breast cancer in men:
- Surgery for breast cancer in men mirrors the procedure in women. A modified radical mastectomy removes the whole breast with cancer. The result may involve removing the nipple, according to the National Cancer Institute.
- Chemotherapy involves cancer-killing drugs to prevent the cancer cells from growing. Chemo drugs are usually taken orally or intravenously.
- Hormone therapy removes hormones or blocks their ability to help cancer cells grow.
- In radiation therapy, high-energy beams such as X-rays are aimed at cancer cells to kill them.
- Targeted therapy treatment uses drugs designed to target specific cancer cells.
WATCH: Marc Futterweit’s breast cancer journey.
When Marc Futterweit was told to get a mammogram by his doctor, like George, he too was in disbelief.
“I said, what do you mean by a mammogram? I don’t have breasts,” Futterweit shared with SurvivorNet.
However, a second opinion from another physician confirmed Futterweit had breast cancer.
“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t tell my wife. I thought I was holding it together,” Futterweit said.
When his family learned he was battling breast cancer, they supported him. Having a support group filled with loved ones is an important part of a cancer patient’s journey toward survivorship, according to experts SurvivorNet has spoken to.
He realized with their support, having male breast cancer is nothing to be ashamed of.
“Men are basically standing in the shadows; they’re ashamed or embarrassed,” Futterweit says.
“Just remember, it’s nothing that you have done to cause you to get breast cancer. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s not a woman’s disease,” he continued.
Questions for Your Doctor
If you are facing a breast cancer diagnosis, whether you’re a man or a woman, here are some questions you can ask your doctor to learn more about it.
- What kind of breast cancer do I have?
- Has the cancer spread to other parts of the body?
- What stage is my cancer in?
- What other tests should I seek to better understand the cancer before deciding on treatment?
- What are your treatment recommendations and their likely side effects?
- What other doctors can give me additional opinions?