Last year, well into my third year of recovery from male breast cancer, I discovered a small lump where a lump should not have been. Once again, my life took an unexpected path.
Like the first tumor, this one was discovered by accident, or by my assessment, divine intervention.
Spotting the lump
In August 2015, I was interviewed for a male breast cancer documentary. Toward the end of the filming, I was asked to remove my shirt and let the camera pan the mastectomy scar as my fingers followed the contour. As my fingers traversed the scar on my right breast, my heart sank. I felt a small lump about an inch below the incision line near the first tumor’s location.
I did my best to keep the surprise to myself. I hoped that when I went home, I would discover that it was scar tissue or my imagination. I am always amazed at how the human mind allows us to continue our denial for a little longer. In my original blog post, I stated that I wished I hadn’t waited several weeks to tell my wife about the tumor. As fate would have it, my wife was on vacation with her sister. I opted to tell her when she returned from her trip.
Returning to MD Anderson for male breast cancer treatment
MD Anderson got me in for a sonogram two days after the discovery of the lump. The sonogram told us the location and size of the tumor, but only after the needle biopsy did the weight of the results hit home -- malignant. Those of us who belong to the fraternity of cancer survivors know the impact of such a finding.
I began meeting with my surgeon and my oncologist -- Barry Feig, M.D., and Gabriel Hortobagyi, M.D. -- and ensuring plans were in place in case something went wrong. I relied once again on my faith and knew that I was in the care of the best medical team.
But it was so difficult to tell my wife and children that I needed surgery again. It didn’t make it any easier that I’d just done this two-and-a-half years earlier. It broke my heart to see the looks on their faces as the reality my recurrence sunk in.
My second male breast cancer treatment
Once again, I was amazed by the dedication and skills of my MD Anderson care team. Dr. Feig recommended that I have chest closure surgery. I am thankful that my chest re-sectioning was performed on September 24, 2015 without complications.
Dr. Hortobagyi also referred me to radiation oncologist, Welela Tereffe, M.D., who designed a six-week course of radiation therapy. Radiation was a new experience for me since my first tumor didn’t require it. Thankfully, the experience was uneventful, and the results have been even better than expected.
Dr. Hortobagyi now has me on oral chemotherapy. I am currently taking the aromotase inhibiter, Arimidex.
Giving back to support male breast cancer patients
I am often asked, "Are you worried about another occurrence?" I respond, "No, I wasn't worried about the first occurrence, and would it help?"
Instead of worrying, I choose to focus on helping MD Anderson and other patients.
When I first wrote for Cancerwise, I mentioned my desire to establish a survivor support team. That team is now a reality. I also continue to serve as a charter member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, serve on committees at MD Anderson and recently was elected as chair-elect of the Steering Committee of myCancerConnection.
I hope my situation can help others. I hope that people will one day know as much about male breast cancer as breast cancer in women, and that I, in some way, help raise that awareness.
I encourage everyone who reads this article to tell others, both male and female, about male breast cancer. Who knows -- the person you tell may be the one who will benefit from the information.