Being a man and hearing that he had breast cancer came as a shock for Johan Basson.

‘€œI thought this just cannot be… I was shocked because I never knew that men could have it. Since when do men get breast cancer? That is the first thing I asked the surgeon. And he said ‘€˜it is not common because we don’€™t see it often’€™. But he assured me that I was not the first and will certainly not be the last’€, says 62-year old Johan Basson.  

Basson says it was purely by accident when he felt a lump just behind his right nipple in May 2009. He was on holiday with his family at the time.

‘€œI had just gotten out of the pool and I was sitting on the verandah’€¦ and you know how you sometimes lean back and stretch. I rubbed my hands over my chest, and as I did that, I felt – behind my right nipple – this lump. I told my wife to feel it. It was quite strange. I had never noticed it before and it was quite a significant lump – probably about 20 to 25mm in diameter – reasonably large’€, he says.

The discovery set in motion a roller-coaster ride of emotions for Basson.

‘€œYour mind starts playing tricks with you because, firstly, you are a man’€¦ it is women who suffer these things. Why have I got it? What could it mean? Will I die? What about my marriage? Your mind races on and it is quite nerve-wrecking’€, he says.

After evaluation by a specialist surgeon, it was recommended that he undergoes various tests which included an ultrasound and mammogram. Basson was given a waiting period of about a week before he could receive his test results.

‘€œWhen I walked into his consulting room I knew that it was bad news. I could see his body language. He was uncomfortable. He said to me: ‘€˜We have found a ductal carcinoma. It is malignant and you’€™re going to have to get it removed’€™. As those words were spoken, my wife was emotionally upset. It was not what I was hoping to hear, but I managed to remain calm’€, says Basson.

He had to undergo surgery to remove the lump, followed by extensive chemo-therapy and radiation. The procedures had bad side-effects.

‘€œI had nausea, oral thrush’€¦ your mouth goes numb’€¦ you lose all taste – whatever you eat tastes vile’€¦ tiredness and skeletal pain, all your bones are sore. I had no hair left. I lost all my body hairs on my chest, legs and arms. I had nothing! I was literally as smooth as a baby. And, I thought, ‘€˜hey, to have a bald head is fashionable. So, why not look like one of the boys for a change?’€™’€.

But soon after his surgery, he started feeling positive.

‘€œProbably, after the lump was removed. Whilst this is inside your body, it’€™s alien and you do not want it there. Once it was out, I felt now I can focus on my recovery and get my life back again. You have two choices – either you listen to the doctors or walk away. I chose to work with the doctors to mitigate chances of the cancer growing’€, he says.

Basson says support by his family helped him survive his ordeal. He now tries his best to live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise. He is currently on medication for the next five years.                                                                                                          


  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews