October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in South Africa, the public and private healthcare organisations go on a drive to help raise awareness of this debilitating disease, encourage regular self-examination (watch ) for early detection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are different kinds of breast cancer and depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. Breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules and can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized.

The National Cancer Registry states that one in 28 women are  affected by this cancer in the country and the Breast Health Foundation estimates that South Africa has the highest incidence of male breast cancer in the world with 1-3% of breast cancer cases diagnosed.

Over the years, women have made their voices heard with their battle with breast cancer and recently men have since joined in to share their stories. One such is Bobby Were, a male breast cancer survivor.

Bobby’s story:

“I am a male breast cancer Survivor. Whilst bathing one evening in 2006, I felt a pea size lump next to my right nipple. I called my wife and asked her to look. She agreed something was not right and that I should see the doctor.

My male stubbornness kicked in immediately, you know what I mean, we men know much better than any doctor and I informed my wife it was nothing and I was fine.

About six months later I was at the doctor for a general check-up, and I showed him this painless pea size thing. He gave me a letter of referral to a surgeon in our area and suggested I make an appointment and see the surgeon. 

Again the male instinct kicked in: “lag it af” – I am not in pain don’t need to see this guy, it’ll just be a waste of money…[D]espite all this I believe that my journey with cancer has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. And YES men can be diagnosed with breast cancer and overcome it!” 

Read the rest of Bobby’s story here 

Organisations such as CANSA and the Pinkdrive have also helped in breaking male breast cancer myths;

Men don’t get breast cancer’ – men can get breast cancer, reason being men also have armpits, nipples, breast tissue and muscles.

‘Only old people get cancer’ – you can get cancer at any age. The youngest person in South Africa reported with breast cancer was 6 years old.

‘Everyone’s breast cancer is the same’ – no one is the same. It can appear in different spots and be different sizes. Some have spread and in the later stages, while some are still in the early stages.

The reality is that breast cancer is an incredibly tough disease to fight, however with awareness and support are a reminder that the battle can be won. As the powerful saying goes ‘Cancer’s Tough, But So Are You!’

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Additional source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The National Cancer Registry

Breast Health Foundation