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An avid bicyclist, Harvey Gamble typically rides four to five miles a day around his Punta Gorda neighborhood. In the Florida sun it’s not uncommon to come down with a case of heat rash from time to time, but in Gamble’s case something seemed different.

“There were little spots all over my chest,” Gamble said. “It didn’t bother me until my shirt rubbed across it and it started itching. That’s when I noticed this little thing sticking out of the edge of my nipple that was really hard. I pushed the nipple aside and I felt this distinct mass.”

Gamble immediately made an appointment with his primary care physician to investigate the unusual mass. A biopsy revealed that the mass was breast cancer.

“In the back of my mind, I knew I had breast cancer when I made the appointment to see my doctor,” Gamble said. “Once I got the biopsy results, I thought, ‘Get this sucker out of there ASAP.’”

According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833.

“It’s a very rare type of cancer,” said Dr. John Kiluk, a breast surgical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Most people don’t even realize that men can get breast cancer. As a result, by the time patients present with symptoms, it can be further advanced.”

Gamble’s treatment plan included surgery to remove his left breast, followed by medication to keep his estrogen levels in check and prevent his cancer from recurring. His risk of recurrence was considered low enough that he wouldn’t benefit from chemotherapy or radiation.

“His decision to be proactive saved his life,” Kiluk said. “He was very fortunate that we caught it early. A lot of time men tend to blow it off when something is wrong. As a result, many times we see more advanced cases than we do in women.”

Symptoms of breast cancer for men to watch for include:

  • A lump or swelling, which is often (but not always) painless
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

For men who are diagnosed with localized breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is around 95%. Those chances start to drop once the cancer has spread.

“Because he was proactive and attentive to his body, he saved himself a lot of grief,” Kiluk said. “The earlier you catch things, the easier they are to treat.”

While Gamble recovers from his surgery, he is eagerly awaiting clearance to resume his favorite daily routine.

“You have no idea how badly I want to get back on that bike,” Gamble said. “It’s cathartic. It gets me away from this crazy world and it’s essential for my physical and mental health.”