Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue or that they can develop breast cancer. In 2023 approximately 2,800 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men. About 530 men will die from the disease.
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. When I first noticed my lump, my wife, Sheila, and I figured it was probably a cyst or a bruise. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
I waited nearly a year before going to a doctor. That doctor immediately sent me for further imaging. The initial x-rays revealed a highly suspicious nodule in my left breast. They suspected it was a malignancy. A biopsy showed I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 3.
Some symptoms include a lump or swelling of the breast, redness or flaky skin on the breast, dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge, pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or pain in the area. The lump I had was very tender to the touch.
My mother and my sister have also been diagnosed with breast cancer which brought additional urgency to my situation.
My ultrasound showed several enlarged lymph nodes. Full body and bone scans were done which showed it had not spread anywhere else in my body. My cancer doctors decided chemo before surgery was the best route to go. They hoped to reduce the size of the tumor.
A port was placed in the first part of February. I received bi-weekly doses of one chemo for 8 weeks followed by 12 weekly doses of Paclitaxel. My last dose of chemo was July 15. Despite not feeling well most of the time, I was able to work throughout treatment.
On August 15th, 2022, I underwent a mastectomy. My surgeon explained the chemo had not done the job we had hoped. Eleven lymph nodes were surgically removed with six of them positive for metastatic carcinoma.
My breast cancer was Estrogen positive. One way to reduce the chance of recurrence was to begin daily doses of Tamoxifen. My oncologist said there is a real lack of good evidence in male breast cancer patients regarding the use of Tamoxifen.
I started radiation in early October and completed my 30th session November 14th. I tolerated the radiation quite well. I started using Verzenio in mid-November. I will remain on it for 2 years and the Tamoxifen for 10 years.
Since I had so many lymph nodes taken out, I developed lymphedema in my left arm. Because of the tightness in the arm and chest areas, exercises were prescribed along with some physical therapy. At night my left arm is inserted into a sleeve which has tubes attached to a pump. This compression sleeve pulsates up the arm moving the fluid through the lymphatic vessels, reducing swelling and discomfort. I do this procedure for nearly an hour every night.
A PET done in March showed the radiation had done its job and killed the cancer. As of this writing, I am considered cancer-free.