San Antonio – At 72 years old, Joe Villarreal was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in July 2021. This Breast Cancer Awareness month, he is celebrating one month of remission.
“Very seldom do you hear them say something about men’s breast cancer,” said Villarreal.
According to the CDC about 2,400 men have been diagnosed with breast cancer this year. What is normally seen as a woman’s disease is diagnosed in one percent of men.
Medical experts said age plays a role in diagnosis. Men aged 50 years old and older have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
“If you’re going to get checked for prostate, why don’t you get checked for breast cancer?” asked Villarreal.
Medical professionals found that it is more common for men to develop a lump around the nipple because it is where men have more ductal tissue. Methodist Hospital Metropolitan breast cancer navigator nurse, Pam Kuhlmey said lumps can develop in other parts of the chest area.
“They can have a lump in and around their breast, right. Or sometimes it presents as a lump under the arm,” said Kuhlmey.
In Villarreal’s case, he found a lump in his armpit. He eventually had it surgically removed along with seven lymph nodes that have led to occasional swelling in his left arm. He mentioned that he did not experience physical pain but recalls side effects during treatment and therapy.
“I was calling my wife. I am freaking out of here. My hair is all coming out. We just decided might as well cut it all off because it’s going to fall out. As soon as the chemo ended, it started going back,” said Villarreal.
Looking back on the journey up until now, Villarreal is grateful for the people who stuck by his side through it all.
“My wife was my biggest supporter. She was always there for me. She went to every doctor appointment and she kept tabs of what they were doing and the medications I was supposed to take,” he said.
For more information on the symptoms and risks of male breast cancer, click here.