Mathew Knowles (Courtesy photo)
Mathew Knowles (Courtesy photo)

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Mathew Knowles announced Wednesday he is battling stage IA breast cancer in an interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan.

Knowles, father of famed music artists Beyonce and Solange, also offered a first-person account of being afflicted with the disease that mostly affects women.

In this candid account, Knowles talks about coming to terms with his diagnosis, thoughts on the stigmas attached to male breast cancer and his hopes that his account will inspire more men to speak out:

“I noticed because I wear white T-shirts. I had a dot of blood on my T-shirt.

“The first day I was like “Oh, OK, no big deal … maybe it’s something that just got on my T-shirt.” Second day I looked, and the same thing and I was like, “Eh … interesting.”

“Then on the third day I was like, “What is this? I wonder what this is.”

“A couple of days passed, and I didn’t have any type of discharge. Then on the fifth day, another, just a tiny drop of blood. I told my wife, I said, ‘Look at this,’ and she says, ‘you know, when I cleaned the sheets the other day I saw a drop of blood on it, and I didn’t pay any attention to it — but this is kind of weird.’ I immediately went to my doctor.

“When I had the blood on my T-shirt initially, I didn’t think it was breast cancer. My mind went a lot of places. My mind went to what medication I was on, because different medications might have caused some sort of discharge … and then I thought, just because of the risk factor, that it could be breast cancer and I would go get a mammogram.

“For context, in 1980 I worked in the medical division of Xerox. I worked there for eight years, selling Xeroradiography, which was at that point the leading modality for breast cancer.

“Talk about it. Speak up. Speak out. Sooner, faster, quicker about it. That’s what strength is. Weakness is when you want to keep it secret.

“By being in that position, I had to learn, because I sold to radiologists, all of the modality technology terminology. Then I worked with Philips, selling MRI/CT scanners. I just want to give some context to why it got my attention, more so than others.

“I knew this: Back then, it was 1 in 10 women would get breast cancer, now it’s 1 in 8 because we have more research and more data.

“Also, my mother’s sister died of breast cancer, my mother’s sister’s two and only daughters died of breast cancer and my sister-in-law died in March of breast cancer with three kids – a 9-, 11- and a 15-year-old — and my mother-in-law had breast cancer. So, breast cancer has been all around me. My wife’s mother has breast cancer, too.”

“Fast forward, I go to my doctor, and I say I’d like to get a mammogram. He suggested I get a mammogram, but first he said, “Let’s get a smear.”

“So, they got a smear of the blood, and it was nonconclusive. Then we got a mammogram and that’s when we saw that, in fact, there was breast cancer there. At least they thought. The next step is to get an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. That’s when they determined it for sure — I had breast cancer.

“It was July and I had surgery immediately, and that’s when we got back the BRCA results, a genetic test used to determine a person’s chance of developing breast cancer.

“The results from my BRCA test were that I had a mutation on my BRCA2.

“Men with BRCA2 mutations have a particular increased risk of both male breast cancer and prostate cancer as well as pancreatic cancer and melanoma.”

“I’m still getting test results back. I got an MRI for pancreatic cancer and my pancreas and liver are fine. My dermatologist removed 2 moles — both of which came back benign for melanoma. I got an MRI on my prostate a week ago, but we’re still waiting on the results.

“I am going to get the second breast removed in January, because I want to do anything I can to reduce the risk. We use the words “cancer-free,” but medically there’s no such thing as “cancer-free.” There’s always a risk. My risk of a recurrence of breast cancer is less than 5%, and the removal of the other breast reduces it down to about 2 percent.

“My kids have a 50 percent [chance of inheriting the BRCA gene mutation.] That’s male or female. We used to think this was only an issue for women, but this is male or female.

“I want to continue the dialogue on awareness and early detection — male or female. The key to this is early detection.”

“Breast cancer has been prevalent in our family. I want men and women to be aware — if you detect the cancer early you can have a low mortality rate and live a normal life. If you find breast cancer, stage 1 or stage 2, you have a really good shot at a normal life.

His message for those battling male breast cancer:

“Find a support team, and that team shouldn’t discriminate if it’s male or female. That would be number one. Talk about it. Speak up. Speak out. Sooner, faster, quicker about it. That’s what strength is.

“I need men to speak out if they’ve had breast cancer. I need them to let people know they have the disease, so we can get correct numbers and better research. The occurrence in men is 1 in 1,000 only because we have no research.

“Men want to keep it hidden, because we feel embarrassed — and there’s no reason for that.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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