Willem Kordon, a breast cancer survivor, says it’s not just a women’s issue. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town – One week into breast cancer awareness month and Willem Kordon’s scar still aches to the left of where his nipple used to be, and he has two more doses of chemotherapy to get through before radiotherapy takes over.

He is the only male breast cancer survivor that he is aware of.

“It’s not just a women’s issue,” he said. Since his diagnosis in March, the 62-year-old church secretary has convinced his male friends to check their breasts and go to the clinic if they feel a lump. It may help them catch cancer earlier than he did.

“It started more than a year ago, and I didn’t realise it was cancer,” he said. He lost weight, and he had intermittent pains in his breasts. One Sunday, the pain was too much to bear.

“My left breast was so sore. I pressed it, and there was a liquid coming out,” he said.

He was sent to a mothers’ health clinic for a consultation.

“It was quite awkward for me, because I was the only male among all those women,” Kordon said. “But my son and my wife made it better for me.”

By the time the doctors ordered a fourth biopsy, he knew something was seriously wrong. “I realised I had cancer before they told me.”

Explaining to friends, family and his church congregation that he had breast cancer was difficult at first.

“People said that it couldn’t be, and I said that it is. It was difficult to explain, but after that they accepted it and it all went well.”

One of his doctors was Professor Justus Apffelstaedt, who is the president of the Breast Interest Group of Southern Africa, and also the head of Tygerberg Hospital’s breast clinic.

“For each 100 women that we see with breast cancer, we see one man,” said Apffelstaedt.

Having smaller breasts than women on average, it is easier for a man to detect a lump. However, several factors make a man’s chances of surviving breast cancer lower than a woman’s.

“Men are less likely to go to a doctor and therefore present themselves with advanced cancers,” Apffelstaedt said. “Due to the anatomy of the male torso with very little breast tissue, small tumours infiltrate into surrounding tissue which can then easily spread.”

Kordon is anxiously awaiting blood tests in November, which could place him officially in remission after nearly a year of illness. – Cape Argus

Link to article: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/breast-cancer-a-man-s-story-1.1588786#.Uqsypydiovl