Healthwatch 16: Breast Cancer from a Man’s Perspective

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NORTHUMBERLAND -- No doubt you've seen the color pink a lot in October for breast cancer awareness. But before we close out that month, we wanted you to hear about breast cancer from an unusual source: a man from our area who got that diagnosis.

Mike Hofmann, 68, of Northumberland says one day he noticed something odd on his chest.

"I just felt this little lump in my right breast, about the size of a pea, real hard, it was kind of hard to find. I felt it just when I brushed it, I'm so thin, just felt a lump," said Hofmann.

He thought nothing of it and lived with it for nearly two years until one day he realized the lump was bigger and hurt when he brushed up against something. He finally told his doctor, who removed it right away.

"Christmas Eve, of all times, I get a call. It was cancer, and he wants to do a mastectomy," he recalled.

Men getting breast cancer isn't common, according to Dr. Victor Vogel, who is director of breast medical oncology and research for Geisinger Health System. It's roughly one man to every 100 women.

"It actually should be easier (for men to detect a lump) but we men aren't very good patients," said Dr. Vogel. "We tend to ignore this and not go to our doctors in a timely way. But because of simple anatomy, a lump in the male breast is easier to find than a lump in a female breast."

According to Dr. Vogel, if a man notices a lump or swelling, particularly if the lump persists more than a week or so, is painful or tender, and/or seems to be increasing in size, he should have a doctor take a look.

"He was very fortunate," Dr. Vogel said. "I've seen, sadly, some men over the years who delay going to see someone, then once we saw them it was fairly advanced. So, early detection, for women or men, saves lives."

Mike wanted us to show us what he looks like now, after the mastectomy. He can barely even tell it happened.

After having lymph nodes removed, chemotherapy and radiation, his prognosis is very good.

And he says he's especially sympathetic to women fighting the same battle.

"I'm so thin, I found it easy. A woman most likely wouldn't have felt that same lump," said Hofmann.

Treatment of breast cancer is the same for men and women. Mike says he even had a mammogram and wants to dispel the notion that breast cancer is only a woman's issue.