OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Because of early detection, the survival rate for early-stage breast cancer is extremely high.
But the situation for men is very different.
Dennis Adams played football as a kid in Kansas, Texas, and then Oklahoma.
He joined the U.S. Army at 16 years old.
He started driving a truck in his 20s.
“I wish I would have watched my body better,” Adams said.
A decade on the road, limited exercise, processed food and Dennis felt like something was wrong.
“I was always run down, tired,” Adams said.
He battled diabetes and low blood pressure, but he had no idea what was to come next.
“I was eating dinner with my family, wearing a white polo. My sister said. ‘Did you spill something on your shirt?’ and I looked down and my white polo was covered,” said Adams. “I looked and it was just coming out in buckets.”
It was an embarrassing incident that may have saved his life.
The discharge would not stop.
Adams headed to the hospital where mammogram and biopsy would confirm a breast cancer diagnosis.
Adams had a golf-ball size tumor in his left breast; Stage 3 breast cancer.
“My response was, ‘How can this be?’ I said, ‘I’m a guy!'”
Adams had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection to remove the cancer that had spread.
“I looked at him, and I said, ‘Doc, I’m not ready to die yet. I’m not ready. I have too much. I have my kids. I need to be here,'” Adams said.
A staph infection during chemotherapy treatment nearly killed him.
But, Dennis Adams beat cancer and started taking care of his body.
He lost hundreds of pounds.
He did it because obesity is a contributing factor for breast cancer, and he knows he is one of the lucky ones.
“It’s not uncommon for men to require more treatment. (They are also) more likely to have chemotherapy and radiation, and that also translates into worse outcomes,” said OU Health breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Juan Claros.
Breast cancer in men is rare, affecting only .1 percent.
But, the survivability rate for breast cancer in men is much lower than women.
The five-year survival rate for men with breast cancer is 83 percent.
For women, it’s higher than 90 percent.
“I think part of the reason it is caught at such a late is stage is because there’s such a stigma in men, that they shouldn’t get breast cancer,” Dr. Claros said.
There are signs for men and they are the same as breast cancer in women.
Men with a family history of cancer may be at greater risk for a genetic mutation like BRCA-1 or BRCA-2
“If you do end up finding out that you have one of the genetic mutations, in those situations we do recommend starting self breast exams. particularly around age 35,” said Dr. Claros.
Dennis Adams has been cancer free since 2009.
He is now an advocate for breast cancer awareness and screening.
He gets a mammogram every year.
“He’s very proactive in making sure he’s taken care of,” said Dennis’ wife Jennifer Adams. “He’s also pushed me to make sure my appointments are taken care of.”
Dennis Adams has never met another man with breast cancer.
But he will tell anyone listening it can happen to you.
It happened to him.
“You always think it’s that other person,” said Adams. “You always think. oh. it’s never going to happen to me and then it slaps you in the face.”
Early detection of breast cancer is key to survival for women and men.
Survivor Dennis Adams is living proof.