November 18, 2009
Wayne Parry, AP
Lying in bed one night in 2007, Peter Criss felt something strange: a small lump on his left breast.
“I thought, ‘It's a nodule, I'm a guy, I don't think it's anything more than that,’” he said. “The more I messed with it, the bigger it got and the more it hurt, and that started really scaring me.” The former Kiss drummer went to the doctor, underwent some tests and a surgical procedure to remove the lump. A week later, the doctor called. It was breast cancer.
“My heart hit my stomach and my knees buckled,” Criss recalled.
The good news was that Criss had caught the disease at its earliest stage. After a second surgery to remove it in March 2008, he would not need chemotherapy, radiation or medication. Now, the once-costumed rocker who performed in his Catman makeup is speaking out about his illness to encourage other men to get tested for breast cancer — a disease more commonly associated with women
Men account for only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, but about 2,000 men develop it each year, and 440 die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Alexander Swistel, who treated Criss, praised his decision to get checked out immediately after sensing something was wrong.
“He's a great spokesperson, and he's very bright about this kind of thing,” Swistel said. “To have someone like him come forward and show that there's life after this is a wonderful thing. Rather than be the typical guy and say, ‘Ah, forget it,’ he moved on it right away.”
There should be no stigma attached to having the disease, or seeking help for it, Criss said. Other tough guys, including “Shaft” actor Richard Roundtree, have spoken out about having breast cancer.
Having a mammogram was an experience in itself for Criss. “It's amazing how they can get a guy's little pecs in that thing that the poor women go through,” he said. “They are so medieval! I have a whole new respect for women going through mammograms.”