Andre Johnson with his fiancee, Lakisha, and 3-year-old daughter, Ava.

Breast cancer knows no gender

September 24, 2018

When Andre Johnson found a small bump on the left side of his chest, he never imagined it could be breast cancer.

The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about one in 1,000 for U.S. men, compared to one in eight for U.S. women.

Because it’s so rare, Johnson, a 50-year-old father, was shocked to hear his diagnosis.

“I was speechless,” Johnson said. “How can a male have breast cancer? How could this happen to me?

“Then it became kind of scary. I never knew how fatal it could be. That’s when it got serious for me.”

Johnson had no family history of breast cancer, but because he found the small lump on his chest, his cancer was caught early, at stage 1.

“If I didn’t get treated, if I didn’t get the right attention, it could have been fatal,” Johnson said. “It could’ve been a whole different story.”

Luckily, Johnson did get treatment at the Edith Sanford Breast Center in Bismarck under the care of medical oncologist Dr. Hermina Fernades. The staff made his treatment manageable, Johnson said, and he found a welcoming face at each appointment.

“Without them and without people like them who genuinely care about your well-being, it’s just hard to deal with,” Johnson said. “It made it easier to come every week for treatment, because I knew I was going to find encouragement and get a smile.”

Today, Johnson is cancer-free. He has a 3-year-old daughter, Ava, with his fiancée, Lakisha, and is looking forward to the future with his family. Since his diagnosis, he’s worked to share his story, letting other men know breast cancer isn’t just a women’s disease.

“Women aren’t the only ones who can get breast cancer,” Johnson said. “It was a surprise to me, so don’t let it be a surprise to you. Cancer doesn’t have a gender.”