30 Aug 2012
One Sunday morning in 1998 while Allan and his wife, who is a nurse, were resting in bed, she noticed a suspicious lump on his breast. They made an appointment for a mammogram for the next day, and as soon as the mammogram was read, Allan was referred to a surgeon. How did you react to the diagnosis? With concern, obviously. At that point no one knew whether the lump was malignant or benign. I thought back over it and I had known there was a hardness there and I did have a heavily inverted nipple. It just never dawned on me that it could be anything serious. I had never heard of a man with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and eight lymph nodes were removed. This was followed up with chemo and radiation. You just need to get treatment started and get through it. You're just never sure it's gone. From time to time you think about that. What kind of support did you find through the diagnosis and treatment? My family was my main support. I looked into joining a support group. Mostly I didn't go because I'm not that much of a joiner, but also because I was never sure how the women would react to me coming in and sitting down with them. I didn't know how comfortable they would feel, or how I would feel. The PBCC has called me a few times to ask if a man recently diagnosed with breast cancer could call to talk with me. But the men never followed through and called me. I wonder if they were ashamed or afraid or just changed their minds. There isn't as much networking with men as the women share. One difference for me that I guess you can call an advantage is that losing my hair was never a concern. I decided not to go to wigs when I started losing my hair. I just shaved it all off. Some of the physical things like that I think may be easier for men than for women. What about reconstruction? Reconstruction for me was never discussed. There was a 25 millimeter lump just under the nipple. I lost a whole area there and ended up with a 6-inch scar from breast to armpit. At first I worried about going swimming or being out in the back yard without a shirt on, but after I while I decided that if anyone has a problem with it, that's their problem. "Losing my hair was never a concern. I decided not to go to wigs when I started losing my hair. I just shaved it all off. Some of the physical things like that I think may be easier for men than for women." - Allan Sanders Do you still perform breast selfexams? Yes, I do. I have a mammogram every year or year and a half. I don't think anyone ever teaches men that they should do breast self-exam. What do you want other men and women to know? I know the statistics for men with breast cancer are low compared to women. But sometimes when I see talk shows about breast cancer, and it's an hour show with one sentence at the end like "Oh, yes, some men get breast cancer too," I want to call in. That's often treated like an afterthought. The statistics are low but when you are the one that has had breast cancer, you'd like to see more than a sentence or two thrown in at the end about men. The other thing I'd like others to remember is to do those breast exams. Allan is the owner of Allan Holm Photography in Lancaster, PA, where he lives with his wife, Shirley. He participates in PBCC events and frequently takes pictures for us. We wish him all the best with his health and his work.