HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - When you hear the words “breast cancer”, most people’s minds gravitate toward women. Hopefully after watching this story, that will change. Men can get it too. One of those men lives in north Alabama and is sharing his experience. WHNT NEWS 19 is taking action to help other men be mindful of the signs and to take it seriously.
We all have special dates we remember -birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. For Gordon Mahathey, the life changing date that will stick with him from now on is February 5th, 2014.
That's the day he heard the three words you never want to hear.
"You have cancer,” says Mahathey.
It all started when Mahathey noticed an inverted nipple.
"I found the lump there and irritation and that’s when I told my wife I needed to talk to doctor when I go get my physical,” explains Mahathey.
After the physical, Mahathey’s doctor immediately ordered him to get a mammogram, biopsy and sonogram.
"It was 1.8 cm," describes Mahathey. "I was at stage one.”
Then, he met with a surgeon.
"He said we’re going to have to remove your left breast and some lymph nodes," says Mahathey. "I said well, I don’t use it anyway.”
Mahathey had his left breast and six lymph nodes removed. Two weeks after surgery, a PET scan came back clear.
While the disease is less common in men, statistics show thousands of men will be affected.
According to The American Cancer Society statistics, about 2,360 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 and about 430 men will die from breast cancer.
"It does happen in men," says Dr. John Waples with Clearview Cancer Institute. "About one in 100 of all breast cancers is going to be a man.”
Dr. Waples says all men have breast tissue, some more than others, and it can mutate and turn into cancer, which is why men have to be proactive.
"If they do notice a lump in their breast, certainly if it’s not symmetric or equal on both sides, they should notify their doctor and have it evaluated,” says Waples.
It's important to act quickly.
"If they find a breast mass, it’s very treatable, very curable, but if you ignore it, it tends to be more aggressive and grow and spread faster than the average woman’s breast cancer," explains Waples. "Don’t ignore it. Do yourself a favor. There’s a high cure rate when diagnosed early. Get it evaluated.”
That’s exactly what Gordon Mahathey did. Mahathey doesn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, which is fine by him. That means he can get back to his regular life in Marshall County which includes spending time with family and stepping into the role of Santa during Christmas time.
In addition to Mr. Claus, now, he also has a new role - breast cancer survivor.
"I’m very vocal," says Mahathey. "I figure if it saves one person, I’ve done my job," said Mahathey.
Moving forward, Mahathey will take the drug Tamoxifen for five years. His doctor also recommended that he get annual mammograms.
Dr. Waples says all men who have breast cancer are at high risk to have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. The doctor recommends patients meet with a genetic counselor for proper testing on their family members. Mahathey did that too. His children and grandchildren did not have the gene.