Mathew Knowles urges ‘men to speak out’ after his breast cancer diagnosis
In his exclusive interview with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan, Knowles shared his story and urged men to get tested…
In his exclusive interview with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan, Knowles shared his story and urged men to get tested for the disease, saying, “I’m hoping by me coming here today, speaking out, letting folks know, that you can survive this but it has to be early detection and I can’t overemphasize the word early.”
.@GMA EXCLUSIVE: @MathewKnowles, the father of @Beyonce and @solangeknowles, sits down one-on-one with @michaelstrahan as he reveals his breast cancer diagnosis. https://t.co/zMRJ4O03lS pic.twitter.com/eaQz5yqHIv— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 2, 2019
I noticed because I wear white T-shirts. I had a dot of blood on my T-shirt.
The first day I was like “Oh, OK, no big deal … maybe it’s something that just got on my T-shirt.” Second day I looked and the same thing and I was like, “Eh … interesting.”
Then on the third day I was like, “What is this? I wonder what this is.”
A couple of days passed, and I didn’t have any type of discharge. Then on the fifth day, another, just a tiny drop of blood. I told my wife, I said, “Look at this,” And she says, “You know, when I cleaned the sheets the other day I saw a drop of blood on it, and I didn’t pay any attention to it — but this is kind of weird.” I immediately went to my doctor.
When I had the blood on my T-shirt initially I didn’t think it was breast cancer. My mind went a lot of places. My mind went to what medication I was on, because different medications might have caused some sort of discharge … and then I thought, just because of the risk factor, that it could be breast cancer and I would go get a mammogram.
For context, in 1980 I worked in the medical division of Xerox. I worked there for eight years, selling Xeroradiography, which was at that point the leading modality for breast cancer.
By being in that position, I had to learn, because I sold to radiologists, all of the modality technology terminology. Then I worked with Philips, selling MRI/CT scanners. I just want to give some context to why it got my attention, more so than others.
I knew this: Back then, it was 1 in 10 women would get breast cancer, now it’s 1 in 8 because we have more research and more data.
Also, my mother’s sister died of breast cancer, my mother’s sister’s two and only daughters died of breast cancer and my sister-in-law died in March of breast cancer with three kids – a 9-, 11- and a 15-year-old — and my mother-in-law had breast cancer. So breast cancer has been all around me. My wife’s mother has breast cancer, too.
“That is a very common thing to hear from male patients,” Dr. John Kiluk, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer in The Center for Women’s Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, told “Good Morning America.” “When it comes to breast cancer we really don’t know what causes it. We are trying hard to find what causes cancer. … I think the one thing though that we do know is that there’s a strong genetic tie with cancer.”
“Female breast cancer is very common — it happens in 1 in 8 women,” Kiluk continued. “Male breast cancer is rare — we have about 2,000 to 3,000 cases a year in the United States. … I think anyone who presents with any kind of strong family history really do warrant to consider doing genetic testing to figure out if there is a tie that we can explain what’s going on here.”
Fast forward, I go to my doctor, and I say I’d like to get a mammogram. He suggested I get a mammogram, but first he said, “Let’s get a smear.”
So they got a smear of the blood, and it was nonconclusive. Then we got a mammogram and that’s when we saw that, in fact, there was breast cancer there. At least they thought. The next step is to get an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. That’s when they determined it for sure — I had breast cancer.
The first calls I made were to my kids, and my former wife, Tina. My wife, Gena, already knew; she went with me to the exam.
It was July and I had surgery immediately, and that’s when we got back the BRCA results, a genetic test used to determine a person’s chance of developing breast cancer.
I also met with Dr. Susan Domchek, director of the MacDonald Women’s Cancer Risk Evaluation Center and executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA at the University of Pennsylvania, and she shared with me this whole BRCA information that I had never heard: all men and women have a BRCA gene. The results from my BRCA test were that I had a mutation on my BRCA2.
“Men and women all have both BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes …. and men and women can have mutations in either of those genes,” Dr. Domcheck told “GMA.” “The risks are just a little different in men and women. Men with BRCA2 mutations have a particular increased risk of both male breast cancer and prostate cancer as well as pancreatic cancer and melanoma.”
“The importance of gene testing is several fold,” Kiluk said. “One is that if we do find the gene that you can give estimates on what is the probability in finding cancer in that person’s lifetime. With that information you can help guide treatments and surveillance to hopefully prevent any future issues and be very proactive. Even if the genes are negative, you still have to be very careful because who’s to say there is something we just haven’t discovered yet.”
“But that being said, if we do have a gene, it really helps with counseling and screening and with the BRCA1 in particular there’s a strong tie between breast cancer and ovarian cancer and so we can be very proactive in looking out for those kinds of cancers,” he added. “Usually the most common gene that we associate with male breast cancer is the BRCA2 gene and that’s probably the most common gene I come across with our male patients. One in 400 people carry a BRCA gene.”