AVON, Ind. (WISH) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while people most often think about women during this time, it is important to note men can also develop breast cancer.
“Men are only 1 percent of the breast cancer population,” says Monet Bowling, MD, medical director for the Breast Care and Research Program at IU Health West. “If you think about 300,000 people developing some type of breast cancer in any one year, only 1 percent of those people will be male breast cancers.”
John Danyluk is one such man. He noticed a lump on his left chest in 2010, but never took action.
“Then finally two years later in 2012, in a doctor’s appointment for something else, I told my doctor, ‘I have this lump, do you think I should get it checked out?’ and she said, ‘Oh yes!'” Danyluk said.
Danyluk had a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy of the cyst. On Sept. 25, 2012, doctors determined Danyluk had invasive ductal carcinoma, considered the most common type of breast cancer.
“The cancer had gotten outside of the duct and spread into my lymph nodes under my armpits and to the top of my chest,” says Danyluk.
Danyluk’s surgery to remove the cancer was scheduled for Oct. 19, 2012, which also happened to be John’s 21st wedding anniversary with wife, Cathy.
Dr. Bowling performed John’s surgery at IU Health West in Avon. She removed 28 lymph nodes and a cyst, which measured 5 centimeters in size. John recalls Dr. Bowling’s concern the removal of so many lymph nodes would impact his chest muscle.
“She was very careful not to do any damage,” explains John. “I explained to her that I play a little guitar and she said, ‘well OK, I’m going to make sure you can still play guitar.'”
After surgery, John underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a month of radiation. He began taking tamoxifen and then waited six months before his next scan to measure progress. Doctors found at that time the cancer had spread to his vertebrae.
Danyluk is now undergoing a new round of chemotherapy, perjeta, intended for treatment for patients with HER2-positive cancer. He’s also being treated with Herceptin, taxotere, and an osteoporosis treatment once every three to four months.
“Some men don’t like to talk about it because they’re embarrassed,” says Danyluk. “Cancer is cancer — I don’t care where it is.”
As for a man’s risk of getting breast cancer, albeit rare, Dr. Bowling says men can have the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene mutation, just like women. Men most at risk have multiple generations of women in their family with breast cancer. Those men are encouraged to do self-exams.
“My message to guys is — if you feel something, let your doctor check it out,” says Danyluk.