Ron Bush, from Fort Mill, South Carolina, explained to WBTV that he was focused on looking after his wife, Phyllis, who was diagnosed with Paget’s disease – a rare form of cancer in the skin around the nipple area – last fall.
But in the midst of her treatment, he developed a lump on the right side of his chest and a biopsy confirmed he had an ‘aggressive’ and ‘invasive’ form of breast cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes.
‘I just didn’t think it was something that men get,’ he explained.
‘It stung. It took something out of me. I went from being a caretaker for my wife, to her being the caretaker for me.’
Breast cancer in men is very rare and their lifetime risk of getting the disease is about one in 1,000, compared to one in eight for women.
It was Mr Bush’s wife who first convinced him to go and seek help last December after she noticed a small lump on his right breast.
‘I was just running my hand over my husband’s chest and I felt this knot and I said: ”What’s this?”‘ Mrs Bush recalled.
After much persuasion Mr Bush went to get a mammogram. Recounting the appointment he joked: ‘They were trying to squeeze something that wasn’t there!’
However, the results did not look good and he was sent on for an ultrasound and biopsy. Five days later, doctors broke the news that he also had breast cancer.
His wife of ten years had been diagnosed with the disease in her right breast just three months earlier.
Her treatment involved radiation and two lumpectomies, one in October and one in November, which meant she could keep her breast.
But Mr Bush was told because of the severity of his cancer, he would need immediate surgery to remove all of the skin over the breast, the lymph nodes underneath the arm, and the chest muscle.
Dr Sharon Giordano, a men’s breast cancer specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas previously highlighted that in many cases men have a delayed diagnosis because they don’t think they could be at risk.
‘Men on average have an advanced disease because you have to have a lump to identify it. They don’t examine their nipples,’ she said.
Thankful that he caught his cancer early, Mr Bush is now raising awareness in his local church community about the importance of checking for symptoms.
‘Men need to know. It’s not just a woman’s disease. This is now my mission,’ he said.
Mrs Bush, who is also back to health, concluded: ‘This disease does not discriminate . . . on race, economic status or gender.’
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER IN MEN?
Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in the U.S. in 2012 about 2,190 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men and about 410 men will die from the disease.
Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women, and the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
The number of breast cancer cases in men, relative to the population, has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.
The outlook for men with breast cancer was once thought to be worse than that for women, but recent studies have not found this to be true.
In fact, men and women with the same stage of breast cancer have fairly similar chances of survival.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.