When Lesle Campell first felt a lump in his left breast in June last year, he instantly knew something was wrong.
The fulltime farmer, who has a family history of cancer, wasted no time and immediately drove 500 kilometers to Windhoek to seek medical attention.
“It’s quite simple. I knew my family had so much cancer. I come from a family with a history of cancer, so when I discovered the lump I acted immediately,” said Campbell.
Nine of his father’s siblings died from cancer, Campbell said. In addition, his two sisters were also diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, one died of cervical cancer two years ago, while his younger sister is scheduled for a breast mastectomy later this month.
After undergoing tests, the worst was confirmed when doctors told him the lump was cancerous.
“I was terrified,” said Campbell who shared his reaction upon hearing the bad news. “I was very afraid. If you hear cancer you think you are going to die,” the 60-year-old farmer added.
Within one week of undergoing tests and following the diagnosis, Campbell underwent a mastectomy to surgically remove his breast. A mastectomy is usually conducted to remove breast cancer.
Campbell says he did not need to go for chemotherapy and radiotherapy, because he sought medical attention as soon as he discovered he had a lump. “Breast cancer in men does happen,” said Campbell, who kept on stressing that early detection can save lives.
He is now on medication that stops the production of the oestrogen hormone, he explained. “Oestrogen feeds breast cancer cells,” he added.
Asked how he felt about the removal of his breast, he said “a mastectomy in men is not so bad for men, but to a woman it’s terrible because it can affect her womanhood”.
According to the Cancer Association of Namibia, there five men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. This increased to nine in 2014. Last year 15 men were diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall, breast cancer is the leading cancer in Namibia, unlike in the past when skin cancer topped the list.
“The common risk factor of breast cancer is being a woman. However, men do get breast cancer too and it has more to do with genetics,” explained registered nurse Christolina Kavetuna of CAN.
This is because breast cancer most commonly affects the milk ducts (which men do not have). Although, breast cancer in men is rare, Kavetuna explained that it can affect the nipple and lymph nodes, which men also have. “It’s not very common, or a big concern among men, but there are such cases,” said Kavetuna, who urged people to always be on the lookout for cancer symptoms.
“Early detection can save lives,” Campbell also said and urged people to seek medical attention when they see changes in their bodies. “Do not wait around. Go as quickly as you can,” stressed Campbell.
He says much has changed since he was diagnosed with cancer and although he is now cancer free he goes for a check-up every six months. “I have become more philosophical about life and I don’t take anything for granted, because I realise that life is not going to continue forever. I now farm for pleasure, instead of money and I do those things that are important to me,” said Campbell.
His wife, Marilyn, stressed the importance of supporting loved ones who are battling cancer. “We, as a family, are now very close because we were there for him during that difficult period,” said Marilyn, who added that the news of Campbell’s diagnosis hit their children hard.