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CTnow

Don't scoff: Men get breast cancer too

A survivor's story serves as a warning to men.

Patricia Montremurri

Tribune Media Services

November 1, 2010

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Bill Rands, 67, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., is a man who had a mastectomy.

An 11-year survivor of male breast cancer, the retired money manager is not shy about showing his scar or sharing his story. His openness about discussing his illness sometimes made his buddies squeamish. They suggest that he refer to his illness in a more manly way: They call it " chest cancer."

Rands was taking a shower at his summer cottage when he felt a lump near his right nipple and resolved to mention it to his doctor at a physical a few weeks away. His doctor told him that he'd encountered about three such lumps a year in patients, but had "yet to find the elusive male breast cancer."

"I never forgot those words," said Rands, especially after a biopsy a week later — on his 56th birthday — revealed that he had breast cancer, which affects only about 1,700 to 2,000 men a year in the U.S.

Rands had a mastectomy to remove a 1-inch lump and surrounding breast tissue at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, followed by nine months of chemotherapy.

There are no multimedia campaigns educating men about breast cancer. The disease affects 100 times more women than men.

Rands wants men to be vigilant about their bodies.

"Anything you don't think should be there, have it checked out," says Rands, a father and grandfather.

His wife, Elizabeth (Happy) Rands, says her husband immersed himself in learning about the disease, to the point where his oncologist would refer to him as Dr. Rands.

"He had to know everything, which I think is a good thing," said Happy Rands. "Too many patients _ we let things go and we don't try to take control of and know as much about what's affecting us."

Her husband had always been a champion for women's issues, and she joked with him that he was "carrying it too far by getting breast cancer." Female friends who were dealing with breast cancer called to buck him up and offer reassurance, referring to themselves as Bill's Harem.

Rands volunteers with the Team Angels Foundation, www.TeamAngelsFoundation.org, which was founded by Rosalba Pacella of Macomb Township, Mich. Her brother Nicola Primavera died of breast cancer in 2003.

On average, men diagnosed with the ailment are about 68 years old. About 1 in 5 men with breast cancer had a close relative with the condition, according to the American Cancer Society.

Alcohol use and obesity can increase the risk in men.