Blue Side of Breast Cancer
A disease that directly affects across the board
Posted: October 5, 2012
Marybeth Showalter is the recipient of new breast cancer procedure. (Photo by Stephen Mitchell)
In July, Kreider began a fight few men face. Since then he has undergone surgery and entered chemo to combat his rare form of cancer.
“I was diagnosed in July of this year, and my surgery was in mid-August. I am now on chemo, which I started a little less than a month after the surgery,” he explained.
Male and female breast cancer diagnoses begin with similar warning signs: tenderness in the chest, the appearance of a lump, though oftentimes it goes without outward signs.
“I had tenderness in my chest area, and I had a regular appointment with my family doctor. A mammogram was suggested,” Kreider recalled.
“[The appointment] went from a mammogram to an ultrasound in the same day; the biopsy was two days after, and the pathology report and diagnosis in the same week,” he explained.
In the span of a week he began researching surgeons to combat a disease he never thought he’d battle.
Kreider, whose male breast cancer was diagnosed between stage one and two, is one of the men who represent the 1 percent of all breast cancer patients. He is one of several men who have been treated in the area so far this year. Typically, breast cancer isn’t something men worry about facing; rather, they associate the disease with the women in their lives.
“Most men don’t think they’re even going to get breast cancer, including me,” said Kreider.
“I was surprised, but when you have it, you need to address it.”
And Kreider did just that. He researched doctors and surgeons in the area to ensure top quality care; he decided on Dr. Rafferty with the Women’s Center at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.
“As soon as I saw [the pathology report], I requested Dr. Rafferty at the Women’s Center as my surgeon. I was convinced that I wanted a surgeon who was specialized in this area, and as well trained as she was. It seemed obvious that I didn’t have to go beyond the Women’s Center,” he explained.
As is often the case with breast cancer patients, the surgery Kreider referred to was a mastectomy.
“[I had] the equivalent of a mastectomy in a woman,” he explained. Though men and women differ anatomically, the removal of Kreider’s breast helps to ensure a greater likelihood of remission.
“As far as appearance and so forth, I’m 74 years old, and I don’t really care about that. I do care about being a healthy person, and I do care very much about getting rid of the cancer. This protocol very much enhances my chances to do that,” Kreider said.
Though he’s one of very few men to seek treatment at the local center, Kreider has been pleased with his experience.
“I was treated with the same respect and privacy as the women who go there — it’s patient-friendly for men too, [if] there are not very many of us [men] who need their help,” Kreider said.
Following his surgery, Kreider entered the second part of his treatment: chemotherapy.
“I’ve lost most of my hair [as of late] and the rest of it will be lost soon,” he explained.
Kreider began chemo shortly after his surgery, and is now in the fourth of sixteen weeks. After the four months of three types chemo, he will begin radiation and possibly hormonal therapy.
With a long road to recovery, Kreider stays on track with his wife’s help. He tries to follow doctors’ orders as best he can, to ensure he stays as healthy as possible during the chemo.
“When a person is on chemo, and I think radiation, it’s a program that you don’t change. You deal with whatever comes to you, but you do learn you can do things to mitigate some of the side effects,” he explained.
“One thing I’m learning, is that it pays to try to stay healthy during chemo — [to] sleep, diet and exercise … and there are problems with all three of those.”
Rare But Just As Real
Due in part to the rarity of male breast cancer diagnoses, the survival rate is somewhat skewed. Again, the majority of men do not consider breast cancer as a threat to their health.
“One problem I noted is that treatment for male breast cancer is often not as successful as treatment for female breast cancer, and it seems mostly due to the fact that it isn’t caught as early. Men don’t have routine screening and don’t assume breast cancer when they have soreness or a lump in their chest,” he said.
With similar symptoms, diagnoses, treatments and health threats, male and female breast cancer share more than the statistics would suggest.
“The most important thing [is] that if a man ever feels an abnormality in his chest area and it stays there for a week or two, he should check it out — it is possible it could save his life,” Kreider suggested.
“Even though male breast cancer is rare, if it gets into the higher stages it’s as serious as female breast cancer.”