Male breast cancer – an untold story
Bret was 17 when he found the lump. He checked again and it was still there. At first, it didn’t seem to make sense. Isn’t breast cancer a ‘women’s disease’?
For many men who develop breast cancer, it is an unwelcome surprise to learn that the disease is not just for women. While rare – just 1% of breast cancer cases are in males – anyone can develop the disease.
Doctors told Bret that lumps and bumps are not uncommon in adolescents, and they usually go away. However, in Bret’s case, the lump persisted.
Some years later during a medical check-up he had an ultrasound and a mammogram, prompting doctors to remove the lump as a precaution. But that was not the end of the story.
The lump that had been removed was sent for lab analysis. The results were so shocking that when the phone rang, Bret briefly thought it was an elaborate prank. “It was the doctor and he told me I had breast cancer…No one called me right back, so I realised that this was no joke.”
Although the lump had been taken out, doctors remained concerned that it could spread. Bret had a mastectomy – his breast tissue, nipple and four lymph nodes were removed leaving him with a large scar.
Tests to figure out exactly what kind of cancer he had led doctors to advise chemotherapy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Following four rounds of chemotherapy, Bret was given the all clear.
When people asked if he worried about losing his hair due to the chemotherapy, Bret laughed: “I just lost a nipple – my hair will grow back!”
Once he was out of immediate danger, Bret had time to reflect on the rollercoaster he had just lived through. One of the things that struck him during his experience was the lack of awareness, information and support for men affected by breast cancer.
Google ‘breast cancer’ and, not surprisingly, you will find page after page of information for women affected by the disease.
But it can affect anyone so Bret founded the Bret Miller 1T Foundation to put male breast cancer on the map and give survivors a chance to tell their stories. No longer should men feel alone if they find a lump or are diagnosed with breast cancer.
“We tell people if they find something that doesn’t feel right they must talk with a doctor, don’t ignore anything. Early detection is the first step in the fight against breast cancer,” he says.
Bret has now teamed up with other patient advocates to create the Male Breast Cancer Coalition and is currently working on a documentary called ‘Men have breasts too.’
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