Breast cancer... the silent killer among men
As we mark the breast cancer awareness this month, WomenStyles are here to honour and remember those that lost the battle, even as we encourage and support those who are currently fighting it and we pledge to create awareness on the fatal disease.
Focusing on men, here are two touching stories about 2 men and their experience with the fatal disease:
|A male breast cancer patient. If diagnosed late, cancer is fatal|
My name is Alfred Nyeko. I am aged 48, and have four children. I vividly recall the fateful evening in May 2010. As I put off my shirt, I noticed a swelling on my right breast. I ignored it, hoping it would clear on its own, but the next morning it was still there.
Though not painful, I was uncomfortable, so I consulted my neighbour, who is a senior medical officer.
He advised me to go to St Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu, Uganda for a check-up, saying one should never ignore a swelling in the breast.
The doctor at Lacor recommended a biopsy (an examination of tissues from a body part to determine the existence or cause of a disease).
I got the results after two weeks; I had a clean bill of health, which restored my hope. However, the doctor was not convinced and ordered for a repeat of the biopsy, which was done early in September.
Two weeks later, the results were released. The report revealed I had cancer of the breast. I was so worried as I had never thought I would suffer from cancer, moreover of the breast! Besides, we do not have a history of cancer in my family.However, later, I came to terms with the news and chose to focus on fighting for my life by seeking treatment. I was booked in for surgery on October 8, 2010 at Lacor. The surgery was successful and a week later, I was discharged and referred to the Uganda Cancer Institute at Mulago Hospital.
I was started on chemotherapy (treatment of cancer with drugs). I was given six cycles in intervals of three weeks, which I completed after seven months. I managed to complete the cycles, but the treatment left me weak. I lost all my body hair and my skin darkened.
Later, I was started on radiotherapy (treatment by exposure to a radioactive substance) for six weeks, which also left me feeling very weak. On completing radiotherapy, I was put on Tamoxifen tablets which I have to take for five years. Tamoxifen is an anti-oestrogen treatment; it blocks the effects of oestrogen
The doctors advised me to keep going back to Mulago after every four months for review.
However, before I could even go back for my third review, I felt pain in the lymph nodes, around the arm pits. I immediately went back to Lacor Hospital and another biopsy was done. The results confirmed I had cancerous cells in the lymph nodes. The doctors advised me to go back to Mulago for treatment. I am currently undergoing treatment.
(As told to Agnes Kyotalengerire by Alfred Nyeko)
Cecil Herrin, a breast cancer survivor, is seen on Oct. 12, 2012, in Augusta, Ga.
Cecil Herrin kept asking his doctor for a mammogram, but the burly construction company owner was an unlikely candidate for the breast cancer screening test.
"He said nothing was wrong with me," said Herrin, recalling his doctor's dismissal of the growing lump below his right nipple. "I knew there was something wrong."
Twelve months later, Herrin's cardiologist spotted the lump during a routine check-up.
"She said, 'You need to get a mammogram and ultrasound,'" said Herrin, who lives in Grovetown, Ga. "I said, 'I've been trying.'"
Two days after his 67th birthday, the results of the imaging tests and a biopsy were in. Herrin had breast cancer.
"I cried," he said. "It hit me so hard. That was the scariest moment in my life."
Herrin had a mastectomy, a breast-removing operation that left a long white scar where his nipple once was.
"It bothered me a lot to lose my breast," he said. "I wanted to be walking down the beach with my shirt off."
One in 1,000 men is diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime, according to 2012 data from the American Cancer Society. And the disease kills about one man every day in the United States.
"It's important to know that men are still at lower but measurable risk for breast cancer," said Dr. Marisa Weiss, president of Breastcancer.org. "It's not insignificant."
The lifetime risk of breast cancer in women is one in eight, but women are encouraged to check their breasts for changes and have mammograms as recommended. Men, on the other hand, often ignore the early signs of breast cancer, which include lumps in the breast, armpit or collarbone area, nipple discharge, and puckering, flaking or redness anywhere on the breast.
The American Cancer Society urges men to discuss any breast changes with their doctors. Once a breast cancer diagnosis is made, the treatments are similar for men and women and include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The survival rates are similar, too.
Herrin had no radiation or chemotherapy treatments after his surgery. But he does take the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen to reduce the risk of the cancer's coming back.
"I never dreamed in a million years that I had breast cancer… There's not any cancer in my family," said Herrin, who has become an advocate for male breast cancer awareness.
"You need to go to a doctor," he said of men who ignore the signs. "You need to get checked. Because women are not the only ones who get breast cancer."