Schumacher shows men suffer from breast cancer too

By Kirra Livingstone

WHEN Ross Schumacher lost his mother to breast cancer 30 years ago, he had no idea that one day he would be fighting the same disease.
Mr Schumacher is one of more than 200 Australian men who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year – a diagnosis most men never imagine they could receive and he is speaking out during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to warn men that they too are at risk from a cancer which kills 3200 Australians a year.
The 63-year-old underwent surgery at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane earlier this month and began chemotherapy treatment this week.
The freelance TV cameraman had just returned to Brisbane from filming an overseas golf tournament last month when he realised something was wrong.
“I was just relaxing on the couch at home when I found a lump on my chest, just beside my right nipple,” he said.
“I’d had a few cysts before, but this seemed very different, very hard. Straightaway my wife, who’s a nurse, said ‘You are seeing a GP tomorrow.’”
Following an urgent scan and biopsy, an anxious Mr Schumacher returned to his GP.
“My GP told me that the biopsy had shown breast cancer. I said ‘So male breast cancer is a thing?’ and she replied ‘Absolutely – one in a 100 cases are male’,” he said.
As well as losing his mother to breast cancer, Mr Schumacher successfully beat prostate cancer five years ago.
The eldest of his two sons battled testicular cancer as a teenager and his youngest son also survived a brain tumour as a child after being diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 1.
“I was obviously surprised to find out I have breast cancer, but I’ve been exposed to cancer several times before,” he said.
“This is just another type of cancer and it can happen to anyone, even though it’s rare for men.
“Some people say there’s a stigma for men, but that’s not true. Everyone has been very empathetic to me and there’s no need to be secretive about this – it’s totally the opposite.
“Men need to hear that breast cancer can affect them too. They need to look out for lumps and to get their skin checked every year.”
Mr Schumacher was referred to breast cancer specialist Dr Ben Lancashire at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane for surgery to remove the cancerous growth.
Mater is Queensland’s leading centre for breast cancer treatment and research, with one in every four of the state’s breast cancer patients treated at Mater facilities across South-East Queensland, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton.
“Breast cancer is very rare in men – I usually see only one man each year out of hundreds of patients,” Dr Lancashire said.
“The treatment of male breast cancer is the same as for women – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy – and the survival rates are much the same too.
“There’s a lot of awareness of prostate and bowel cancer among men, but not breast cancer, so it can be a real shock for those patients.”