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Avist Owens – Breast Cancer Patient Success Story

Breast cancer: It can happen to men, too

Avist Owens is a tall, fit father and grandfather with a jovial personality. He is a Vietnam War veteran, a retired truck driver of 35 years, and a horse lover. You would never guess he is also a breast cancer survivor.

After overcoming bladder cancer in 2009, Avist thought his cancer-fighting days were finally over. But one morning a few years later, he noticed a pimple on his right nipple that was sore.

“I didn’t think anything of it, so I squeezed it,” Avist says. When he did, blood oozed out. “Of all the things I thought it could be, breast cancer was not one of them.”

Avist Owens – Breast Cancer Patient Success Story Avist Owens is one of the estimated 2,350 U.S.
men diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

An unexpected diagnosis

The bleeding recurred every six months or so for 2½ years until Avist sought answers from Manuel Tellez, DO, internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. Dr. Tellez ordered multiple imaging tests on Avist’s right breast.

Avist remembers joking with the imaging technologist that day. As he was leaving, she said she would call him within seven days.

“When she called just three days later and asked me to come in, I knew right then that something wasn’t right,” Avist says.

The imaging technologist looked so sad when she came back to the office, Avist tried to cheer her up, reminding her of the laughs they’d shared a few days earlier.

“I told her we were going to do the same thing today,” he says. “This is not the end. God determines the end and the beginning, and he does not make a mistake. Later, we’re going to do the two-step dance.” She laughed.

Avist was diagnosed July 17, 2015, two days before his 66th birthday. He spent no time in denial. It was time to fight to survive.

Blessed with great care

Avist says he was blessed that his breast cancer was a slow-growing stage I cancer that had not spread. Seven lymph nodes and his right nipple were removed. As a precaution, he received hormone therapy and radiation to kill cancer cells that might grow.

Avist is now in full remission and grateful for his care team: Dr. Tellez; oncologist Darshan Gandhi, MD, MBA; radiation oncologist Kesha Harris-Henderson, MD; surgeon Kevin Niblett, MD; and breast cancer nurse navigator Vicki Hallum, RN, CBCN.

“If it weren’t for them, I never would have known about the cancer,” Avist says. “But because of their skills, we caught it in time.”

Take note, gentlemen

Dr. Gandhi, also on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton and medical director of oncology, says that self-awareness is even more important in diagnosing breast cancer in men, because men are not typically screened for breast cancer.

“Risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, a painless lump under the armpit or nipple, and bloody discharge,” Dr. Gandhi says. “If a man has any of these, he should not hesitate to see the doctor.”
Avist echoes the doctor’s advice.

“Don’t be afraid to seek help if you feel something is not right,” he says. “Breast cancer is nothing to play with.”

Sources: American Cancer Society; National Institutes of Health; Allison DiPasquale, MD, breast surgical oncologist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center