Breast Cancer Not Just Women's Disease; Local Male Survivor Tells His Story

Jun 14, 2018

The numbers are frightening: One in eight women in America will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It’s expected 266,000 women will be newly diagnosed in 2018. But, it’s not just women who are at risk.

Bill Harris says he vividly remembers the day when he discovered his breast cancer in 2012. Harris is a media technology consultant, and a former journalist, so he immediately started doing some research on the internet.

He says he was bleeding from one of his nipples. He surfed the internet for possible causes, and when he discovered breast cancer was a possibility, made a quick appointment.  Harris went to his doctor that morning, which led to a quick diagnosis, and three weeks later, surgery. The now 66 year old man says the surgery meant removal of one of his breasts.

As Harris did more research, he realized that genetically he was on a high risk group. So, he decided to undergo another surgery to try to make sure he wouldn’t face breast cancer in his other breast. Even though it wasn’t cancerous, he had it removed. The breast cancer survivor just celebrated his sixth anniversary of being cancer. He says while some might consider him unlucky to have had it, he feels fortunate to have found it early enough for successful treatment.

Harris is part of what’s known as the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. Its goals include supporting those coping with the disease, educating the public, and raising awareness among medical providers about male breast cancer.  About 2500 new cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed a year, with about 500 deaths.  The percentage of deaths is much higher for men, because it's often diagnosed much later than with women.

Some of the symptoms to watch for include a painless lump or thickening in breast tissue, changes to the skin covering a breast, changes to a nipple, such as redness or scaling, and discharge from a nipple. Harris says men should talk to their health care providers to learn more about this issue when they get physicals.