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Harvey Singer | Male Breast Cancer | Prophylactic Chemotherapy | BRCA2 Genetic Mutation | Mastectomy

Learn how Harvey Singer who had a BRCA2 genetic mutation, found out he had Male Breast Cancer on this episode of Cancer Interviews with host Bruce Morton, after undergoing a mammogram and biopsy prior to diagnosis and was successfully treated with a mastectomy and prophylactic chemotherapy.


What began as a sharp pain in his left nipple led to a mammogram and ultimately a diagnosis of breast cancer for Harvey Singer.  A regimen including a mastectomy and twelve weeks of prophylactic chemotherapy led to survivorship, but along the way Harvey learned the health care community offered little in the way of expertise and support for those diagnosed with men’s breast cancer.  His experience inspired his establishment of the His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, an organization which helps men all over the world as they seek guidance in the fight against breast cancer.


In 2008, Harvey was with a group of friends.  When greeted by a big friend with a big bear hug, he suddenly felt a sharp pain that went from his left nipple up to his ear.  The pain nearly brought him to his knees.  His wife said he should get a mammogram.  Harvey asked, “How does a man get a mammogram?”  She said the procedure as it is for women with small breasts. 


Harvey, of Laguna Niguel, California, got the mammogram, then doctors had him undergo an ultrasound, which revealed more than just a little lump.  He next went in for a biopsy the following Monday, and even as a man, Harvey had a strong feeling he was going to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  He said the biopsy was not a fun experience.  Two days later his phone, and the doctor said, “Mr. Singer, you have breast cancer.”


He was not prepared for this horrific news.  Harvey says he has always been one to confront challenges.  Adding to his challenge was the data that one in 1.100 breast cancer patients are men. 


Harvey’s sister, Vicki Wolf, is a four-time breast cancer survivor.  At that time she was a three-time survivor, and Vicki turned out to be an excellent mentor and source of support.  It was from her that Harvey and Vicki shared the same BRCA2 genetic mutation.  Harvey made a few calls and found a breast surgeon.  He went through a full mastectomy on his left breast.  It was Stage I, margins were clean, but after pathology, they realized it was more invasive than originally thought by virtue of the size of the tumor.  It was then recommended he go through twelve weeks of chemotherapy to make sure no cancerous cells escaped.  From there, Harvey achieved survivorship, but fifteen months later, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, caused by the same genetic mutation.


Harvey Singer has survived two cancer journeys, but says the breast cancer journey was more impactful.  He reasoned many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, but most guys don’t get breast cancer.  Harvey realized right away the health care system wasn’t set up for men with breast cancer.  He was asked to fill out a form asking about vaginal dryness and when his last period was.


That experience inspired he and Vicki to establish the His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation to give men a better roadmap, and a place to go for guidance, encouragement and information. 


Although things have improved slightly since the time of his diagnosis, he had no options but to go to a women’s breast center, and be asked if he was there to see his wife.  He remembers being put in a pink gown and constantly directed to different places, empty offices, because they were afraid I might see a woman’s breast.  Then when being seen, he was stunned to hear how many health care professionals didn’t know men could get breast cancer. 


Harvey Singer tells men diagnosed with breast cancer that they are not alone.  They should research the disease as much as they can, and check out his foundation’s website.


Additional Resources:


His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation:

Book: Available on Amazon, “Sir, You Have Breast Cancer” by Harvey Singer


Bruce Morton: Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer.  We just don’t hear about it so often.  But we are going to learn more regarding this subject from our guest.  He is Harvey Singer of Laguna Niguel, California, a survivor of breast cancer.  In addition to being a survivor, he spearheads an organization that exists to support men with breast cancer, and we are going to learn more about that organization as well.  So, here he is, Harvey Singer, and Harvey, welcome to Cancer Interviews.


Harvey Singer: Thank you, Bruce.  Happy to be here to help.


BM: We know there is more to your life than cancer, before we start, that’s what we would like to hear.  So, if you would, tell us a bit about where you are from, what you do for work, and what you do for fun.


HS: I am a 69-year-old guy, born in 1954.  I was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised through the Philadelphia public school system and a product of Temple University, a graduate of Temple University with a BS in Journalism.  I started my career in the publishing business, then wavered over to my wife’s family business, which is in the uniform side of the world for medical and restaurant professionals.  In 1983, I had my first of two boys.  They are now older adults, both engaged to be married.  For now, I work for a company called ChefWorks, which is the largest provider of restaurant and hospitality uniforms in the world.  I love to play golf, I love to exercise, I love to take care of my health, more so since cancer, but I am very cognizant of my health, my exercise regimen and eating properly.


BM: To get to your cancer journey, all of us encounter a point in which our otherwise normal health became something other than normal.  For you, when did that occur and how did it manifest itself?


HS: I grew up in Philadelphia and I have friends from Temple University, we are spread out all over the country, we’re dedicated sports fans.  Once a year we would get together, play some golf, become frivolous like our old college days, eat well and have fun.  I was at one of these reunions in Chicago, when the Philadelphia Eagles were playing the Chicago Bears back in 2008.  This friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a year gave me this big bear hug.  He is a big guy and when he hugged me, I got a pain that shot like a knife from my left nipple into my ear.  It almost brought me to my knees, it was so painful, and I thought something’s up and started poking around my left nipple.  By the time the end of the day happened, I realized something was abnormal.  My nipple was inverted, which I had noticed before, but I thought it was because I was out of shape, and there was a lump underneath it.  When I got home after that weekend, I said something to my wife and she said I am such a hypochondriac, go to your doctor and let her check it.  I did, two days later, and it took her about five seconds, spreading her hands across my chest and then said she would send me to get a mammogram.  I said, “A mammogram?  How can a guy get a mammogram?”  She said guys can get mammograms the same way a woman with small breasts can get a mammogram.  So, I went to the radiology office, got the mammogram, half an hour later, they came in with an ultrasound machine and realized there was more there than just a little lump, then sent me out for a biopsy the following Monday.  At that point, I already knew that I was probably going to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  My sister at that time was a three-time survivor, my mom’s a survivor, so there is a genetic history.  My sister warned me that there was a potential for this even though I had not been genetically tested, but I knew in my heart it was there and I went for the biopsy, not a fun experience.  Two days later, my phone rang, the doctor said, “Mr. Singer, you have breast cancer.”  That was the start of my journey.  Everything goes 600 miles an hour after that, but I had some experience with this because my sister had been through so much and she kinda pointed me in the right direction.  I called a couple doctors I was very close with, and they got me in to see a breast surgeon immediately.  I went through a full mastectomy in my left breast.  It was clean, it was Stage I, margins were clean, but after pathology, they realized it was more invasive than they thought, just by the state of the tumor.  It was then recommended that I go through 12 weeks of chemotherapy, just so we didn’t miss anything that would have allowed the cells to escape.  I went through all that and moved on my way.  Fifteen months later, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, caused by the same genetic malfunction.  So, I have been through two cancer journeys, but the breast cancer was more impactful because most guys if you live long enough are going to get prostate cancer, but most guys don’t get breast cancer.  The fact that I was diagnosed with something guys hardly ever get, I realized right away the system wasn’t set up for guys.  It was not established that there were forms for men.  I was asked if I had vaginal dryness, when my last period was.  At that point, my sister and I decided to change the way things are done for men.  We have five boys between us, we know they are natural carriers, so we started the His Breast Cancer Awareness foundation to give guys a little better roadmap and a place to go for some guidance and for some encouragement quite honestly, and a lot of information.


BM: Harvey, quite obviously, it’s a horrific day anytime someone is diagnosed with cancer.  In your case, it sounds like to some degree you were prepared for your diagnosis because of your sister’s experience.  In any way, did that soften the blow?


HS: No, and I wasn’t prepared.  My history is, if you put something in front of me, I am going to confront it.  I am not going to run from it.  I realized very early on that (a) the system was not set up for me, so I was going to have to do things differently, and (b) the only way I could take this on was to challenge myself against everything that was coming at me.  I started researching all my doctors.  No, I don’t think anybody is set for that diagnosis.  It is always a hit over the head, especially something that is so rare in guys.  There one in every 1,100 breast cancer diagnoses that are men.  In my case it was about 6.5 percent chance that because I carry a genetic predisposition, but the odds are still in your favor, but no, I wasn’t prepared for it, but I decided to attack it rather than sit back.  I think it is a problem with people, and something we preach to our group is that you are in charge, you get to make the decisions.  You have to become your own advocate.  You have to understand the information.  Doctors are great.  They are geniuses in most cases.  In most instances, they are taking on 300 or 400 patients at a time.  If they make a mistake and you die, they go to the next patient.  As a patient, you get one shot, so I think being educated, and finding the information, which is out there today, you can find the answers to some of the question and challenge your doctor.


BM: We’re confident you’ll be able to learn some tips and tools to help you through your personal cancer journey, but first we’d like to invite you to please give us a ‘like,’ leave a comment or review below and share this story with your friends.  Kindly click on the ‘subscribe’ button below and click on the Bell icon, so you’ll be notified the next time we post an interview.  And if you are facing a cancer diagnosis, please click on the link in the description and Show Notes below to check out our free guide, “The Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I First Got Cancer.”


One thing we have learned from previous interviews is that there are some types of cancer that carry with them a very unfortunate stigma.  If someone is diagnosed with lung cancer, someone else will ask them how many cartons of cigarettes they smoke each day; if someone is diagnosed with liver cancer, they will hear that they drank too much booze.  Did you face anything like this, being a guy diagnosed with a cancer people generally associate with women?


HS: It was interesting.  It was not something you are supposed to get, as a guy.  You’re not supposed to get this.  I had friends, they tried to be funny.  When I played golf, they wanted to know if I wanted to tee off from the lady’s tee.  They asked if I needed to get a different bra size.  It was done in jest.  I handled it, but people around me didn’t like it, my family didn’t like it.  They thought it was obnoxious, quite honestly.  You’re put into a world that is not set up for guys.  You go into a women’s breast center.  They put you in a pink gown.  They show you around like you don’t belong and they’re afraid you might some other woman’s breast while you’re in there, so they hide you in rooms until the coast is clear.  The whole system was set up so faulty and when I would go in, they would ask if I was there for my wife.  I cannot tell you how many medical professionals I have run into they say they didn’t know men could get breast cancer.  It is so swept under the rug, and I wonder how can they not know this?  How can a professional oncologist not know that a man can get breast cancer?  From an external side, it is emasculating when you realize the ignorance of the system, but I have always learned to talk about it.  I am going to walk at the beach with my mastectomy scar and I hope someone looks at me and engages me, so then I can explain how and why I got it, and that if you are a guy that you can get it, too, and try and educate people.  Guys, you can get this, and you can die from it, and if you do get it, it is more likely you will die from it than a woman because it is going to be discovered later, you’re not screened the way women are screened, you’re not encouraged.  There is all this of what we call “pinkwashing.”  In October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and they don’t even talk about guys.  The NFL did it for years, they had this whole breast cancer thing, and we wrote them every year, told them they had a male audience, why don’t you try reaching to men?  I get it.  There are only 2,600 of us who are diagnosed each year in the US, but if you are one of the 2,600, it’s important.  The outside world doesn’t understand it.  We’re trying to change this.  I will continue to get this message out until my last breath.  I will continue to push this message to guys, and to maybe save their lives or help them get through it. 


BM: Harvey, you briefly touched on something I would like you to elaborate on.  All types of cancer are a bit different.  They have their own idiosyncrasies.  But there is one theme that remains constant for any type of cancer and that is the importance of early detection.  We are all well aware of the availability of mammograms for women; but how does a man get screened for breast cancer?


HS: It’s actually very simple.  If you go to my website,, we teach you how to screen yourself.  You do the same digital screen a woman is taught to do.  Basically, you lift one arm and with the other hand, you run it underneath the nipple, you go around in a circular motion, you look for anything that is inconsistent.  It is actually a lot easier for guys to catch this because for guys there is a lot less breast tissue and far fewer places where this can become invasive.  It is almost always a couple millimeters of the nipple on either side.  So, you can screen yourself, you can make it play time with your partner and let them screen your chest area for you.  If there is any family history at all, on your father’s side on your mother’s side, it doesn’t matter, genetics react from either side where it can be passed down. If there is any family history of prostate cancer or any type of cancer, you can ask to be tested and screened.  If you being tested and hold a genetic predisposition, a genetic mutation, you can go get a mammogram.  I have nephews who are still doing that on a regular basis, and they are still in their thirties.  They are getting annual mammograms.  You can get insurance to cover for it, but you have to get some reason for it.  That’s why we encourage genetic screening.  Guys are funny.  They don’t like to go to the doctor.  It’s part of our nature.  They’ll blame everything on something else, but you just to be aware of your body.  Understand your body and any change you should note.  If you do a little digital feel around that area or note an indentation of your nipple, which is a huge flag, that’s a sign something is wrong.  If you get to a point where something is bleeding or leaking fluid, now you have become further staged, but initially, you can screen and if you go to my website, we’ll teach you how to do it.


BM: Harvey, I want to get to your organization and website, but first I want to circle back to your journey with breast cancer.  There had to have been a point in which you thought you had turned a corner, so if you would, talk about the tail end of your fight with breast cancer.


HS: I don’t like it when people say I am cure and/or I never have to worry about it again.  Once you diagnosed as a patient, unfortunately, you are a patient for the rest of your life.  I don’t buy into that.  I have seen too many circumstances where it has come back 12 years later.  My sister has been diagnosed four times with breast cancer.  Between her third and fourth, she had 12 years.  I just think you have to be an avid screener.  I think you are never in the clear.  My journey, I went through surgery, I went through a mastectomy, I didn’t have any radiation for my chest, but I did go through chemotherapy for 12 weeks.  I still screen twice a year,  If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have had both breasts removed, a double mastectomy, most women do that.  I still screen both sides, but I still screen twice.  Six months, an MRI, another six months, a mammogram.  To me, it is just part of the challenge.  My journey never stopped.  It is just something you have to live with the rest of your life.  If you are smart, you’ll stay on top of it.


BM: Harvey, let’s talk about the present and the future, your organization, how it came to be and what it does. 


HS: After my breast cancer diagnosis, and I am contemplating all the things when you go through chemotherapy and you have a lot of time on your hands to think, two things happen.  One, I said the system has to change.  I have two boys, my sister has three boys, we have no girls.  Each one of those kids is 50-50 to carry the mutation that we carry.  We didn’t know who at the time was carrying what.  We had to do something to change the system.  When I started researching male breast cancer, there was nothing out there.  The Internet was alive and active, but when you googled male breast cancer, all you found was somebody who was paying tribute to a lost loved one or a brother that had passed away from it.  There was nothing informational.  My sister and I in 2010 said we were going to change this.  We started a nonprofit, named His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc.  It was meant to be a source of information, a source to go to for contemplation, to find out anything we could teach ‘em about the journey they were about to take.  Fortunately, my sister’s son, my nephew was an e-marketing genius and he helped us get everything us and running for us on our website, and it was amazing.  It was like an instantaneous hit.  People started contacting us from all over the world that were diagnosed.  They were looking for a source of information, somebody to help them plan a journey for them.  We cannot say anything medically, we are not medical providers.  We have medical providers, genetic counselors on our board that we can relate you to and they can answer questions on the medical, but we can help lay out a roadmap.  We were the first in they world that we know of, and there have been a few others since, and it’s great.  We welcome everybody.  We are not in competition with other organizations.  We work with genetic organizations, we work with breast cancer organizations.  Susan G. Komen, the largest breast cancer organization in the world, they raise a ton of money.  We worked with them for years before they got a male-oriented site up.  We ask them to include a little blue with the pink.  It’s not a totally pink world.  That’s why our site’s logo is part pink and part blue.  We did that for a reason.  I will continue to preach this message from the mountaintops until my last breath: Guys are going to get this and they can die from it if it isn’t caught early enough.   The web address is  The foundation is His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc.  On our site, you can learn a lot of things there and we have a Facebook group of male breast cancer survivors.  We have to let you into the group to make sure you won’t do anything detrimental to us.  It is growing very rapidly.  I wrote a book available through Amazon Publishing called, “Sir, You Have Breast Cancer,” which were the first words I heard when I got my diagnosis.  It’s an interesting book, the story of my life and my journey with a little bit of humility and a lot of humor about some of the funny things I went through.  I tried not to write it too technical and too depressing, so I tried to interject some funny information to it.  I wrote most of it while I was going through chemo.  It was something cathartic to me.  It was my first book and I have toyed with writing a second one when I retire.  Our foundation helped fund documentaries, one called, “Pink and Blue.”  My sister and I play a part in it.  There’s some very good information in it. 


BM: Harvey, we are going to wrap up now, and we always conclude the way.  If you encountered a man who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, there might a lot of things you would want to say to him, but if there are a couple things you would hope would really stick with him, what would they be?


HS: First, I would tell him you are not alone.  We have a group of people that can help you.  Second, and I think this is the most important thing.  Once diagnosed, dealing with it is the most important job you will have in your life.  Get educated.  Research everything you can find, every piece of information on your type of cancer.  Cancer has so many permutations.  Breast cancer alone has more than 10,000 permutations.  There is no cookie-cutter answer to everything.  The more information you have, the better your decision making will be, and it’s your decision, not your doctor’s decision.  It’s your care, your treatment.  And if you don’t like your doctor, you can fire your doctor the same way you can fire your plumber or your mechanic.  Find a different doctor, but you are in charge.  That’s my biggest piece of advice.


BM:  Thank you, Harvey, for a wealth of information we had yet to address until this interview.  We’re addressing it, and we and our audience, we’re all so much better for it. Thanks, Harvey.  Thanks for being us on Cancer Interviews.


HS: Thanks.  I am happy to spread the word and happy to let guys know that this is important.  Just check yourself, you can stem this at the beginning, remember, it can happen to you.


BM: And that will write up this episode of Cancer Interviews.  As we always say when we conclude, if you or a loved on are on a cancer journey, you are not alone.  There are people like Harvey, organizations like His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation that can come to the rescue.  Until next time, we’ll see you on down the road.


Additional Resources:


Support Group: His Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation


Book: Available on Amazon, “Sir, You Have Breast Cancer” by Harvey Singer


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