Male Breast Cancer Advocacy -- Heard in the Halls: Voices From the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium
Michael Singer
December 9, 2016

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"I've been on a roll of male breast cancer advocacy."

Breast cancer survivor Michael Singer was staffing the Male Breast Cancer Coalition booth at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. In this mini podcast, he talks about his diagnosis and how he works to raise awareness that men can be breast cancer patients, too.

Running time: 3:27

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My name is Michael Singer, and we’re here at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2016, and I’m here representing the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. This is our first year as exhibitors at the symposium, I’ve been here as an attendee before, and we’re at booth 416, and we’re being received tremendously. People are thanking us for being here and raising awareness that men can and do get breast cancer. The numbers are 2,600 men a year, but we lose approximately 440 of those guys due to the latter stages of diagnosis, because most men don't talk about their breast cancer.

So, one of our main agendas here is to raise awareness. We have brochures, business cards, and spreading the word, and raising awareness. And the convention itself is fantastic. The networking that’s available here with oncologists, scientists, doctors, patient advocates is tremendous. I highly recommend it to whoever has the opportunity to come. There are a lot of companies that offer scholarships to come. But if you can’t get a scholarship, I highly recommend paying and attending, because the information you can pick up here is invaluable.

This year, I know personally of five male breast cancer attendees. A couple are on scholarship. A couple are here working booth 416 for the Male Breast Cancer Coalition also. And again, I think people, when they first see the banner, they’re, like, questioning, and when they find out that we’re breast cancer survivors, myself and Anthony Merka who’s working the booth with me, the shock leads to questions. And a lot of people don’t know that men can carry the BRCA2 gene and pass it onto their children just like a woman can. There’s a 50/50 chance.

The gentleman who’s here today with me actually had a double mastectomy. He also carries the BRCA2 gene, and he also passed a gene onto one of his children. I myself was an early stager, stage IIB, [invasive ductal carcinoma plus] ductal carcinoma in situ, and had a mastectomy of my left breast. And in the beginning, I have to be honest, I couldn't tell anybody that I had breast cancer because I grew up in a world where only women got breast cancer, and it was a woman’s disease, later to find out that men can and do get breast cancer.

After the first year of kind of hiding in the closet and not saying anything to anybody about it, I saw two gentlemen on national TV. One was Bret Miller, 24-year-old male with breast cancer, and the other man was Richard Roundtree, who was a movie actor, he starred in a show called Shaft. And when I saw these two gentlemen on national TV, who were both male breast cancer survivors talking about male breast cancer out in the open, it was like an epiphany for me.

I started running around my house like, “What am I embarrassed about? These guys are cool! These guys are talking about it on national TV.” And ever since then, I’ve just been on a roll of male breast cancer patient advocacy. I’ve gone to training programs with the National Breast Cancer Coalition Project LEAD. I do Department of Defense grant reviews on breast cancer. I do a lot of outreach speaking at high schools, colleges, senior centers, American Cancer Society, events. I’ll speak in front of people, two people, one person, 13,000 people. Doesn't matter. Wherever I can raise awareness about male breast cancer, I’m going to be there talking about it.

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