Mathew Knowles is opening up about his private battle with breast cancer.
The 67-year-old music manager father of Beyoncé and Solange went public with his diagnosis on Wednesday’s Good Morning America. “I also am a survivor of breast cancer,” he said at the top of the interview, timed with Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Knowles, who guided Destiny’s Child to superstardom, revealed that he was diagnosed with stage IA breast cancer in July. He had his first surgery then and will have his second breast removed in January.
He said he made the discovery after noticing a small recurring dot of blood on his white T-shirts. When he brought it up to his wife Gena Charmaine Avery’s attention, she said she noticed a dot of blood on their bedsheets.
“So I immediately went to my doctor, I got a mammogram and it was very clear I had breast cancer,” Knowles said.
While breast cancer occurs mostly in women, about 2,670 men are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. (By comparison, 268,600 women will be diagnosed in the same time period.) So Knowles was initially surprised by his diagnosis.
“Of all the things I could get, why would I get this?” he recalled thinking. “From a man’s perspective, I’m thinking: Why me?”
Following his July surgery, however, “I’m doing really well,” he revealed. “I’m doing all the steps for recovery.”
Knowles said his BRCA test — a blood test that uses DNA to identify to identify mutations in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes — showed he has a mutation on his BRCA2. As a result, he said he has “four things to be concerned about: prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma and breast cancer. The rest of my life I have to be very aware and conscious and do all of the early detection: constant mammograms, constant prostate exams, MRIs.”
Knowles said the first calls he made after his diagnosis were “to my kids” — in addition to Beyoncé, 38, and Solange, 33, he also has a son, Nixon, 9, and a daughter, Koi, 9, from other relationships — “and my former wife, Tina [Knowles Lawson]. My wife, Gena, already knew; she went with me to the exam.”
He said talking to his kids about his findings from the BRCA test was important too.
“This is genetics,” Knowles said. “It also means that my kids have a higher chance, a higher risk. Even my grandkids have a higher risk. And they handled it like they should — they went and got the test.” (Beyoncé and Jay-Z are parents to Blue Ivy and 2-year-old twins Sir and Rumi; Solange has a 14-year-old son, Daniel “Julez” Smith.)
In an essay on GMA’s website, Knowles wrote, “My mother’s sister died of breast cancer, my mother’s sister’s two and only daughters died of breast cancer and my sister-in-law died in March of breast cancer ... and my mother-in-law had breast cancer. So breast cancer has been all around me. My wife's mother has breast cancer, too.”
Knowles also spoke about breast cancer being more common in black men — and he hopes speaking out about it encourages others to get the BRCA test or just be comfortable speaking about their breast cancer diagnosis.
“I’m hoping by me coming here today, by speaking out, letting folks know that you can survive this but it has to be early detection,” he said. “I can’t overemphasize the word early.”
In January, Knowles will have his second breast removed “because I want to do anything I can to reduce the risk. We use the words cancer-free,’ but medically there’s no such thing as ‘cancer-free.’ There’s always a risk. My risk of a recurrence of breast cancer is less than 5 percent, and the removal of the other breast reduces it down to about 2 percent. My kids have a 50 to 70 percent chance of getting the BRCA mutation and breast cancer. That’s male or female. We used to think this was only an issue for women, but this is male or female.”
Knowles said the surgery was “an easier thing for a man,” explaining, “You know, if I open my shirt you can’t even tell... I’m not defined by my body. My wife kinda laughed and was like, ‘So what?’”
And Knowles added that he’s been making an effort to take the best care of himself that he can since his diagnosis.
“I stopped drinking. I wanted to just have a clean bill of health. Exercise. Meditate,” he said. “Things that used to be important [are] not important to me now, I just look at the world differently.”
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