A Man Diagnosed With IBC

Rod using his story to give education and hope to men diagnosed with breast cancer.

by Rod Ritchie

August, 2017

Although men who make up one percent of annual breast cancer cases that are diagnosed, there are no records showing how many of these guys were diagnosed with IBC.

While this form of breast cancer doesn’t always present along with a lump, mine did. My breast surgeon told me that because our breast tissue is closer to the skin, we are susceptible to IBC.

On the third visit to my general physician about a lump in my left breast, I convinced her to order an ultrasound. By this time, the cancer had spread to the skin of the breast and underarm, and it looked red and swollen and felt warm. It was getting the tell tale dimpled appearance known as peau d’orange.

After the ultrasound, a biopsy was scheduled and I was subsequently found to have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with dermal lymphatic invasion, Stage IIIB, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2-. I searched the Internet for any information on my disease, and particularly in relation to IBC males. I was fortunate to come across the IBC Network Foundation and the inimitable Terry Arnold.

Because the breast was so inflamed, the surgeon decided immediately that she would send me to the oncologist, to start neo-adjuvant treatment, where chemo precedes surgery. The chemo lasted 18 weeks, and was one day each three weeks. There were three doses of FEC (Fluorouracil, Ellence, and Cytoxan) and three of Docetaxol. I tolerated the drugs without the various dreaded side effects and consciously decided to keep doing my work as though nothing was happening. While hair loss and a “chemo look” were the most obvious outward signs, inwardly I felt strong.

The Surgery that followed was extensive, and since 2/23 lymph nodes were tumorous, all those under my arm were removed along with the breast tissue. I was lucky to have a very skillful surgeon, and she had to work hard to round up the affected tissue, since cancer often travels further in male breasts. I didn’t achieve pathological complete response in the tumor that was removed.

Following surgery, I started 25 radiation treatments, five a week for five weeks. Again, this was more of an inconvenience than a bad experience, and I understood that this treatment was “insurance” in that it was aimed at rounding up cancer cells in my skin and in the chest wall.

I’ve been on Tamoxifen regimen now for three years, fortunately with none of the listed side effects. At my last check-up there was no evidence of breast cancer.

Men with breast cancer have a lesser chance of survival than women, primarily because they are diagnosed later, since they and their health practitioners are not recognizing symptoms of the disease early enough. Consequently, their prognosis is not as good as that for women. I don’t believe there are any statistics for IBC men.

Also, there is the lack of male-specific clinical research on men with breast cancer, and few trials due to the small cohort of patients. Because treatment for men is based on that for women, there will only be more research when better treatment data from males is collated and analyzed.

I’ve kept in touch with Terry and have joined her IBC Facebook pages in order to help and advise others with this disease. However, I have to admit, I’ve not come across a man, virtual or real, with IBC.

Rod Ritchie is a 66-year old Australian print and web publisher who now advocates for guys with breast cancer. His website, MaleBC.org  is a compilation of the latest diagnosis, treatment and research on breast cancer in men and is a very active member in the Australian/New Zealand IBC support group.