By Sara Bondell - October 13, 2023
Richard Lieberman’s primary care physician would always tell him he was jealous of how healthy he was. A retired lawyer turned best-selling author, the then 75-year-old routinely exercised and kept up with his four young grandchildren.
But during his annual check-up in 2021, his doctor noticed Lieberman had an inverted nipple. Out of an abundance of caution, he sent him for a mammogram.
“I wasn’t worried about it because after doing some research I found out that the likelihood of me having male breast cancer is extremely unlikely,” Lieberman said.
Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all breast cancer cases. According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. in 2023. It is about 100 times less common among white men than white women, and about 70 times less common among Black men than Black women.
When the mammogram revealed Lieberman had a malignant tumor in his breast, he was shocked. His wife, Tina, beat breast cancer 15 years before, and concern started to seep in.
“I remembered how it turned our lives upside down. Everything changes when that happens; nothing is the same as it was,” Lieberman said.
After researching specialists in male breast cancer, Lieberman made an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center. He underwent a mastectomy followed by hormone therapy. Two years later, he is cancer free and back to living his normal life.
“Men should know that it’s possible for them to get breast cancer,” Lieberman said. “The big message is men should be more aware of their bodies overall. This inverted nipple, if I had just paid attention, I could have seen it, but we aren’t always taking a good look at ourselves.”
“The patient is their best doctor,” said Dr. John Kiluk, a surgical oncologist in Moffitt’s Breast Oncology Program. “All patients need to be aware of their bodies and alert medical professionals for any changes. The earlier we can diagnose the problem, the less a patient has to go through and the better the outcome.”
Male breast cancer most often presents as a hard lump. Other symptoms may include:
- Nipple pain
- Inverted nipple
- Nipple discharge
- Sores on or near the nipple
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm