Fighting Like a Girl - Man With Breast Cancer Shares Personal Journey

Apple a Day Blog | October 12, 2017
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Retired truck driver Bill Burkert, 66, was going through his normal morning routine last year when he stepped out of the shower to shave and noticed a dimple on the right side of his chest. Always being diligent with his health, he scheduled an appointment with his doctor right away. His doctor felt a mass and a mammogram confirmed he was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

“I didn’t even think that it was possible to do a mammogram on a man, but I guess my man boobs made it possible,” Burkert said. “I was determined to beat the cancer.”

Breast cancer is relatively rare in men - only one in 100 cases, according to the American Cancer Society. After the diagnosis, Burkert underwent genetic testing and it revealed he has the BRCA gene, a newly discovered genetic disposition to certain cancers, including breast cancer.

“For men with risk factors of breast cancer, including a family history of a genetic mutation in the BRCA2 gene, it may be helpful for them to conduct self breast exams,” says Ramon Mourelo, M.D., a Board Certified Surgeon with Casa Grande Surgery Specialists.

Because Burkert was diligent with his health, the cancer was caught early.

“When I tell people I had breast cancer, it’s kind of neat to watch the reaction on people’s faces,” Burkert says. “I tell them the statistics, I guess I was lucky to win that lottery.”

Burkert underwent surgery to remove the tumor with Dr. Mourelo. He then went on to receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Cancer Treatment Services of Arizona in Casa Grande. Jay Klarnet, M.D., a Board Certified Medical Oncologist, took care of his chemotherapy and Ajay Bhatnagar, M.D., a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist, took care of his radiation therapy.

Getting treatment close to his home in Casa Grande was important to Burkert.

“Cancer Treatment Services of Arizona is only about 2.5 miles from my house,” Burkert said. “The physicians have a good reputation in the community, and I didn’t see any reason why I should go to the Phoenix area when I can get the same treatments done virtually next door.”

Throughout treatment, Burkert always maintained his sense of humor, saying, “Before the diagnosis, I had just signed up for a shave club where they send you razors every month. It was kind of ironic, but at least I didn’t have to shave.”

He now goes to a monthly men’s cancer support group with the Cancer Support Center in Casa Grande, an organization dedicated to helping cancer patients, survivors, and their families, as well as caregivers and friends.

Burkert has a message for others dealing with cancer, “Trust your instinct if you think something is wrong. If something doesn’t look right, go get it checked out and trust your doctor. Cancer can be beaten.”

Casa Grande Surgery Specialists and Cancer Treatment Services of Arizona are affiliates of 21st Century Oncology. 

About the Physicians

Bhatnagar

With a background in biomedical engineering, Dr. Ajay Bhatnagar has a broad range of experience in new technologies and research. He serves as the medical director of 21st Century Oncology of Arizona and has written numerous publications on stereotactic radiosurgery, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and electronic brachytherapy. He continues to hold academic affiliation with University of Pittsburgh as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Bhatnagar is a leading physician who pioneered electronic brachytherapy for the treatment of skin cancer since its inception. Learn more about electronic brachytherapy in this video. 

mourelo

Dr. Ramon Mourelo is an accomplished, Board Certified General Surgeon with over 15 years of experience. Recognized as the "Physician of the Year" from Casa Grande Regional Medical Center for 2011, 2013 and 2014, Dr. Mourelo is proud to continuously provide superior-quality care. He performs all General and Oncology surgeries that can be done either Open, Laparoscopic or Robotic at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center and Chandler Regional Medical Center.

klarnet

With an extensive background in immunotherapy, Dr. Klarnet brings to his patients a unique blend of personalized care. He utilizes targeted treatments in conjunction with compassionate care, taking a holistic approach to healing. Dr. Klarnet has been the recipient of numerous awards including recognition of his contributions to the American Cancer Society. He is proud to continue providing state-of-the-art cancer care, close to home.

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