Breast cancer came knocking on our door in 2005. It didn’t come looking for me, a woman, the likeliest victim. It came for my husband, Lee Giller. We had known that men could get breast cancer, yet it never occurred to us that the lump Lee felt was anything more than a cyst. At the young age of 48, the love of my life was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer.
Just after Lee finished treatments for his initial diagnosis, and to help increase awareness about breast cancer in men, we walked 60 miles in our first Susan G. Komen 3-Day®. The connections we made were so powerful that we walked another 60 miles that same year. We continued walking every year after that while listening to people from all backgrounds of life share their stories of survival, courage and sadly, defeat; and we shared ours. Some had not known men could even get breast cancer. So, we began to find our voice and purpose, and Susan G. Komen listened.
Lee allowed himself to become a face of male breast cancer – most often in places inundated with women. He never felt shame or embarrassment at what so many still think of as a woman’s disease. The way he faced his illness was inspirational – never a complaint or self-pity. Lee was brave, kind, generous, and he was taken much too soon. On April 28, 2017, my husband and best friend passed away from breast cancer at age 59. Lee fought valiantly for nearly 12 years, four of them with metastatic disease.
Breast cancer has influenced every corner of our lives. We believe that Lee’s cancer diagnosis saved our daughter, who learned through genetic testing that she inherited his BRCA gene mutation. At just 28 years of age, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but thankfully due to knowing her risk, it was caught early. This disease has shown us what a hero is from a man who would grimace at being described as such. It has taught us to truly value every day and not take those we love for granted. Sadly, we have learned how fleeting time can be.
Komen believes that providing safe, accurate, current, reliable and evidence-based information is a key factor in helping to realize a world without breast cancer.
Proceeds from The Lee Giller Male Breast Cancer Fund will support the resources found on Susan G. Komen’s About Breast Cancer (ABC) section of Komen.org including downloadable education materials and the My Family Health History Tool. The Fund will also support the Men’s Breast Cancer Telephone Support Group. The ABC section, co-developed with Harvard Medical School faculty, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center staff, was launched in 1999 and is regularly updated thanks to these amazing institutions.
The ABC section serves as the basis for all of Komen’s breast cancer educational and informational messaging. Komen has access to experts across the fields of oncology at Harvard who serve as reviewers and sources of information for our content and thus, the Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard names lend a high degree of respect and credibility to the content on our website. Supporting this fund will help ensure these resources remain available to everyone.
Here are some examples of the current resources for men and their families on Komen’s website:
- Breast Cancer in Men provides information about breast cancer in men, including warning signs, risk factors and types of breast cancer in men. In addition, links to downloadable educational resources are provided.
- Breast Cancer Screening for Men at Higher Risk provides information about breast cancer screening for men at high risk of breast cancer.
- BRCA1/BRC2 Mutations in Men illustrates how these gene mutations affect men.
- Treatment for Breast Cancer in Men provides people with information on the common types of breast cancer in men and their treatment options.
Downloadable Educational Materials
- Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too Breast cancer in men is rare and is not often discussed. This brochure provides awareness messages and general facts about breast cancer in men.
My Family Health History Tool
- Susan G. Komen has adapted the Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” tool. “My Family Health History” tool is an online tool that is simple to fill out and makes it easy for people to record and organize their family health history. The tool helps gather information for useful discussions with doctors.
Men’s Breast Cancer Telephone Support Group
- Susan G. Komen offers a free, 12-week telephone support group for men with breast cancer. It provides a safe place for men to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Since men typically don’t think of themselves as having breasts and are often surprised to know they can get breast cancer, education is critical. Men are also less likely than women to recognize changes in their chests at all or realize those changes are significant and report symptoms. These delays may play a factor as to why men are sometimes diagnosed at a later stage of breast cancer than women. For men the U.S., it is estimated that in 2019 there will be:
- 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer (includes new cases of primary breast cancer, but not recurrences of original breast cancers)
- 500 breast cancer deaths
Male Breast Cancer Resources:
Support the fund and raise awareness for male breast cancer.
Honor Lee’s Legacy
THE LEE GILLER MALE BREAST CANCER FUND
The Lee Giller Male Breast Cancer Fund will help empower people to make informed breast care decisions for themselves and as they advocate for others.