When I think back over the last few weeks, I feel slightly foolish for ignoring the lump for so long. Probably about 6 months. Being a man in his mid-40s probably makes it even easier to ignore. I mean what are the odds? You feel a lump, but it sometimes feels like it is there more than at other times. That doesn’t sound like cancer. When it is there, it hurts – not badly, more like an occasional sharp twinge, sort of like a very slight, very local stitch. According to the brief symptom descriptions on the many reputable medical websites, breast cancer in men typically doesn’t hurt. Dimpling? No. Skin changes? Not at the beginning. So you think, I’ll wait a week and see if it goes away. It is bound to go away. But then it doesn’t.
Then as a guy, you also feel slightly awkward about this area of your body. Let’s just be honest – it is not the kind of cancer men have. We have testicular cancer, prostate cancer and the others… I know – grow up. This was all in my head. Also, my wife is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at pretty much the same age on the same side. So again, what are the odds? Also, I never mentioned the lump to her before going for the biopsy, because I didn’t want to make it all come back for her, and also because I would feel foolish for fearing I had something that she really did have. Also, in my head.
Then I also work at one of the nations biggest cancer centers, UT MD Anderson in Houston. I see real cancer patients every day, and of course plenty of people who work there fight the disease every day. But me? It seemed a little unreal, again. I walk our halls every day, going to meetings, and see our patients on their way to appointments. Now I would join them?
I finally broke through the inertia. I found a primary care physician outside of MD Anderson to take a look, and check to see if I was just imagining things. He saw some color changes on my nipple right away, and sent me for a biopsy. I decided to go to MD Anderson. That’s where the lump was found to be cancer.