Charlie’s Story: ‘Listen To Your Body And Act On It’

Charles Smith _PS_350x350Fewer than 1 percent of breast cancer patients are men – a statistic that often causes symptoms to go unnoticed for far too long.

Thanks to his observant wife, Patti, that didn’t happen to Charlie Smith of Clayton. One evening, when Charlie took his shirt off, Patti noticed that his nipple was inverted.

“That doesn’t look right,” she said.

They immediately scheduled an appointment with their family physician, David Mesker, MD, of Englewood Family Practice. He detected a lump in Smith’s breast and referred him to breast surgeon Thomas Heck, MD, of Gem City Surgeons.

A biopsy came back positive for invasive ductile carcinoma. Dr. Heck performed a right-sided mastectomy, which revealed that the cancer was close to Stage 2. “Dr. Heck was an awesome surgeon,” Charlie says. “He felt he got it very early.”

During the initial consultation with Dr. Heck, Patti promised she wasn’t going to cry. “He gave me a box of Kleenex anyway, and of course I needed it,” she recalls.    

Early detection may be the reason that Charlie, 65, has been in remission for nine years.

“It’s very important to have increased awareness that men can get breast cancer, because there isn’t an equivalent test to a mammogram,” says Charlie’s medical oncologist, Charles Bane, MD, of Dayton Physician Network.

Dr. Bane also recommended genetic testing for Charlie. “Every patient diagnosed with breast cancer, whether male or female, should discuss the option of genetic testing with their care team to determine if genetic testing is indicated in their case,” Dr. Bane says.

“In my case, it was not genetic, which was a huge relief,” Charlie says. “Our children are not at risk.”

Dr. Bane ordered six initial rounds of chemotherapy over the course of three months. “It wasn’t that uncomfortable,” Charlie recalls.

Dr. Bane notes that the ability to manage the side effects of treatment is much greater than in the past: “The advancements in anti-nausea medication have been really effective in the majority of people, and those continue to improve.”

Charlie continues to follow up with Dr. Bane every six months and to take a hormone-blocker pill to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.

The couple made it through their ordeal with the strong support of their children, Joshua Smith of Dayton and Dawn Selby of Kettering. “And I can’t say enough about our physicians and our medical team,” Patti says. “They were all very caring and professional and took an interest in you as an individual.”

For his part, Charlie gives the bulk of the credit to his wife of 47 years. “She is my savior,” he says. “It was very important that she knew something wasn’t right and that it should be checked out.”

Charlie is a very private person, but he says he decided to share his story “in order to give back and to make people aware that men can get breast cancer, too.”

Adds Patti, “The key is early detection. If you see something that isn’t right, don’t wait a week or even a day. Listen to your body and act on it.”

Breast Cancer Symptoms In Men

Dr. Bane, chairman of Premier Health Cancer Institute, says that men often delay seeking treatment for breast cancer because they are unaware of the symptoms. He advises men and their families to be alert to the following warning signs:

  • Asymmetry in the breasts
  • Swelling
  • Pain or discomfort
  • A lump
  • Discharge from the breasts
  • A change of appearance in breasts or skin


Contact Us

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.