Beyoncé and Solange Knowles’ father, producer/manager Mathew Knowles, is speaking out about his male breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and his desire to use his public megaphone to speak out and, hopefully, save lives.
Knowles, 68, spoke to People magazine about initially brushing off a telltale sign, then realizing that something was wrong in July 2019, when he saw a pinprick-sized red dot on his shirt.
“I was in disbelief,” said Knowles, who knew to take care of his health after years of selling medical imaging equipment, including mammography machines. When another, similar spot, showed up a short time later, Knowles spoke to his wife, Gena Avery Knowles, about it and she mentioned that she’d also seen some spots on their sheets. “I said, ‘Okay, I need to go to the doctor,’” Knowles told the magazine, noting that telling his wife was the hardest part because her younger sister had died from breast cancer at 39.
A mammography and biopsy confirmed his suspicions a few days later, marking Knowles as one of the rare men diagnosed with breast cancer, which accounts for around 1% of the 270,000 breast cancer diagnoses each year.
Luckily for Knowles, he caught the cancer early, in stage 1A, while it was still small and had not spread to his lymph nodes, which meant he didn’t need chemotherapy, but did require a mastectomy.
Trusting their doctors, the couple waited to tell Beyoncé and Solange until after his surgery because he didn’t want them “worrying that this was a life-or-death kind of situation on surgery day.” The surgery, however, revealed more difficult news, with tests showing Knowles had the BRCA2 gene mutation, which raises his risk of developing pancreatic, melanoma and prostate cancers. That pushed him to go into his family’s medical history, which included his mother, aunt and great aunt dying of breast cancer, as well as four of his father’s six brothers dying of prostate cancer.
With all that information in hand, Knowles is trying to spread the word about the BRCA gene to help others become proactive about their health, including working with genetic testing company Invitae, encouraging everyone, including Bey and Solange, to get tested. “If you’re ahead of the curve, then your outcome will be, most of the time, great,” he told the magazine. “I’m a living example… I want to save lives, especially in the Black community.”