PUBLISHED: 11:12 AM on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Even men can't escape breast cancer battle
BRAINERD, Minn. - For one family the familiar pink color associated with breast cancer awareness is tinged with blue as mother and son share an uncommon bond.

Both have faced the diagnosis of breast cancer.

On Saturday a team at a local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure wore blue hats to support Pam Knutson's son, Brad, and to raise awareness about male breast cancer.

Breast cancer in men is rare. The Susan G. Komen organization reports about 2,030 men will be diagnosed and about 450 will die of the disease in 2007. Because a small percentage of men will get breast cancer, early detection is a challenge.

Brad Knutson felt a small lump on his chest. It was about the size of pea at first. He never even thought about the possibility of breast cancer. Many months went by. When doctors first checked the mass, they thought Brad, then 38, was too young for cancer and the lump was more than likely nothing to worry about. But when his nipple retracted, that was a definite sign something more serious was going on beneath the surface. A biopsy confirmed the cancer.

Surgery, hormonal therapies and chemotherapy followed. The cancer returned in 2005. Another tumor deep in muscle tissue beneath Brad's arm was removed. But doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized to his lung and another tumor was beneath his collar bone. Another round of chemotherapy and experimental drugs followed.

"You just wake up every day and keep going on," Brad said.

He's hoping for at least 10 more good years, saying he has an 8-year-old he wants to see through high school.

Brad's mother said if she had known about the lump she would have taken him to a specialist immediately. Pam felt a lump in her breast a year before she was diagnosed in 1998. The lump didn't show up on a mammogram but it grew. Pam felt she could almost feel the tissue expanding. She went to the doctor before her expected annual exam time to have it checked. Even then the lump barely registered on the mammogram. Instead of waiting longer to see if there would be a change in her next mammogram, she sought out a needle biopsy. It confirmed the cancer and actually two tumors lined up one behind the other. She was 58 at the time.

While fewer men then women will get breast cancer, Pam said it is more deadly in men because they don't suspect they have it and may not realize they can even get it.

"But if men can get it taken care of as soon as they find a lump it doesn't have to end up this way so we are hoping some good can come out of our experience with it."