Richard Roundtree was diagnosed with cancer in 1993.
Being a man who was aware that women get breast cancer, he was taken aback. “The doctor told me, ‘You have breast cancer,'” recalls Roundtree, who played John Shaft in the iconic 1971 film “Shaft.” I heard the cancer part first — it was only later that I heard the breast part. I couldn’t believe it.”Roundtree found the lump while filming a movie in Costa Rica. “It just didn’t feel right,” he says. “I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, so I decided to get it checked out when I was back in L.A.”
It was hard for Mr. Roundtree to share his diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, so for yeares he kept quiet about his status as a cancer survivor. “I was in the closet, so to speak, until after the fifth year when I was cancer free,” he says.
While at a celebrity golf tournament to raise money for a mobile breast cancer diagnostic unit, Roundtree decided to spill the beans. “I just got up and told everybody that I was a breast cancer survivor. The room was totally silent,” he says, laughing. “I think it dawned on people that men can be affected by this, too.”
Richard Roundtree Becomes a Spokesman for Male Breast Cancer
The ability to openly talk about something so personal, prepared Roundtree, now 65, for a new role as an awareness advocate for male breast cancer. With available time and the desire to share his experience, Mr. Roundtree spends part of his time traveling around the country and speaking to different groups.
“Not talking about my cancer was really tough,” he says. “And now that I do talk about it all the time, it’s really become a backhanded blessing. I was getting on a plane recently and a flight attendant ran up to me and said ‘You saved my husband’s life.'” Her husband had a lump in his chest and only agreed to get it checked out after she showed him an article about Roundtree. “Her husband had caught it early, which probably did save his life,” says Roundtree.
People Should Share Family Health History
“Think about your kids,” he advises. “Sit down with your family and talk about history, about all this stuff because it can save your life. You got to be vigilant.”
Wise Boomer Chics Celebrate Richard Roundtree, A Breast Cancer Survivor