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Men Get It, Too: Tallahassee man opens up about breast cancer battle

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 3:44 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - As we know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 280,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. this year.

But that’s not the whole story.

WCTV spoke to a Tallahassee resident who wants people to remember: MEN GET IT, TOO.

“It was November 1, 5:45 p.m. when the doctor called me and told me I had breast cancer,” Tallahassee resident Ambrose Kirkland said.

That was back in 2001 when Kirkland got the diagnosis.

“Most people, when they find out they have cancer of any kind, they break down and cry.  I didn’t. I went to the store and got some beer,” he said.

“Really?” WCTV’s Lanetra Bennett asked.

“Yeah, because, see, I guess because I’m different. I’ve always been a little outspoken and crazy in my life,” Kirkland replied.

Kirkland uses his humor and outspokenness to spread awareness to others, and encourage women and men to get checked for breast cancer.

“I’m crazy. Cancer picked the wrong person.” He said.

Kirkland says he was the one who first felt a lump on his chest, but ignored advice to get it checked out.

A couple of weeks later, he started noticing wet spots on his shirt that got bigger and bigger.

Then the area started hurting and he finally went to the doctor.

“She told me before she even sent the sample off that, she said, ‘You got breast cancer probably,’” he said.

Kirkland’s response: “Men don’t get breast cancer.”

Doctors say it’s rare, but men do get breast cancer, too.

The American Cancer Society says for women, the lifetime risk is 1 in 8. For men, it’s about 1 in 800. The ACS estimates about 2,600 new cases will be diagnosed in men in the United States this year, and about 530 men will die from it.

“The problem is, men don’t realize they can get it, so they may ignore their breast or chest wall,” said, Dr. Karen Russell with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

She says the biggest thing with cancer in general, is to be aware of changes in your body.

“Most men with breast cancer will tell you, ‘Yeah I felt something or my skin was changing’ or ‘I had a little bit of blood from my nipple’ or something like that. They thought nothing of it because it’s just a rare situation and they don’t get seen,” she said.

Dr. Russell says the biggest risk factor is probably age. 

“There are some that are inherited,” she said.

Kirkland’s paternal grandmother had breast cancer. His aunt and his sister, Jean, both died from breast cancer after Kirkland’s diagnosis.

He’s now in remission.

“I laugh at it a lot and I stay positive. It’s like, ‘Come on, bring it’ because here I am 20 years later.” Kirkland said

His advice to others: “Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to live.  Giving up is never an option.”

“You’re not afraid of this fight?” Kirkland was asked.

“No. I’ll run through fire with two buckets, give it to you go back through the other side,” he answered.

Kirkland wears an oxygen tube. Even though his breast cancer is in remission, he’s now battling heart failure and thyroid cancer.

Dr. Russell says for men with a family history of breast cancer in women or men, or early prostate cancer or even pancreatic cancer, they could be in the high-risk group for the BRCA gene, which she says can lead to a higher incidence of male breast cancer.

For more information about male breast cancer, symptoms, and prevention, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org.

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