The 67-year-old music mogul, who is the father of Beyonce and Solange Knowles, detailed his battle with the disease in an interview with Michael Strahan in Wednesday’s episode of ‘Good Morning America’.
“What I want to share, Michael, is that I also am a surviver of breast cancer,” begins Knowles, explaining that he was prompted to visit his doctor, and subsequently had a mammogram, after noticing spots of blood on his shirt and bedsheet.
Knowles, a former Xerox salesman who shot to fame after putting together Destiny’s Child, says his first call was to his family, “because this is genetic.”
“This means my kids and my grandkids have a higher risk,” he explains.
Knowles adds that since his surgery in July, his four children (sisters Beyonce, 38, and Solange, 33, and their half-siblings Koi and Nixon) and grandchildren have been tested for the gene.
But men need to be breast aware, too.
Though boobs might not be something we immediately associate with men, they still have breast tissue, which means they’re still at risk from breast cancer.
Though breast cancer in men is less common, according to Cancer Research UK around 390 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK in comparison to 54,800 women, Knowles diagnosis is proof it can and does happen.
And increasing awareness of the disease is crucial to saving lives.
Recent statistics from Insurancewith.com revealed that only 20% of men would see their GP immediately with common symptoms of breast cancer, whilst 78% of men believe there to be poor awareness of the disease.
Meanwhile, 24% of British men don’t think they will be diagnosed with the condition – rising to 42% in the 18-24 age bracket.
“While women are significantly more likely to suffer from breast cancer, it is an issue that can affect men as well,” explains Dr Jan Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer at MEDIGO.
“In fact, men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting it and, while the risks are significantly higher for women, men should also be aware of any potential warning signs.”
The biggest concern for experts is the lack of awareness surrounding male breast cancer, which can often mean a late diagnosis.
“In cases of male breast cancer, once the condition is diagnosed, 30-40% of the time it is at a III or IV stage,” Dr Schaefer continues.
“At MEDIGO, a handful of the 80,000 patients we have helped were men with breast cancer and, unfortunately, all of them were already at a late stage, which supports the fact that there is a lack of awareness, not just amongst men but amongst their partners and caregivers too.”
Male breast cancer: the facts
Dr Jan Schaefer explains some of the symptoms men should be looking out for and when to seek medical help…
Not much research has been done into the causes of male breast cancer, as the chances of men having it are so much smaller. However, there are a number of factors that might increase the risk in men.
Family history and genetics could have a role to play. Men whose relatives had breast cancer are more susceptible to developing the disease in later years – especially in their 60s and 70s. Other known factors include radiation exposure and increased levels of, or exposure to, oestrogen. Oestrogen in men could be increased through medication, obesity and liver disease. Additionally, alcoholism has been found to have links with breast cancer in men.
What to look out for
Given the fact that the male breast is typically smaller than a woman’s, this makes spotting any symptoms easier, which is why it is essential that men know exactly what to look out for, to catch the condition early and get the required treatment.
It is important to know how to check yourself for any early signs of breast cancer. Whenever you have the opportunity, whether in the shower or just before bed, press your fingers flat against your chest (right hand for the left pectoral, and left hand for the right) and move your fingers in a clockwise motion. Check the entire area, starting from the outside and moving towards the nipple, looking out for any unusual bumps or lumps. An unusual lump is typically hard, not painful and doesn’t move around.
Once you’ve done this, check your nipples, looking out for any unusual discharge by gently squeezing each one in turn. You should also check for visual signs, such as the nipple turning inwards, a sore or rash around the nipple, or the surrounding skin becoming hard, red or blistered.
Lastly, you should also check your armpit for any unusual bumps, which can indicate swollen glands.
When to see your GP
The chances of men developing breast cancer are very low; however, if during a routine self-check you find any warning signs, like lumps, unusual discharge, rashes, or puckering of the skin, make sure to visit your GP. If you and your family have a history of breast cancer, make sure to mention this during your visit, along with any of the symptoms that you are experiencing.
Male breast cancer treatments
According to the NHS the treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how far the cancer has spread.
Possible treatments include:
surgery to remove the affected breast tissue and nipple (mastectomy) and some of the glands in your armpit
other medicines that help stop breast cancer growing.
For more information on male breast cancer and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to watch out for visit Breast Cancer Now.