The Bad Boys of Breast Cancer


The greatest obstacle facing men with breast cancer may be … ourselves.

I understand how guy’s with breast cancer can feel overlooked or ignored. After all, I’m one of them.Ours can be a lonely disease. We’ve been making our case publicly for a long time now, and I’m pleased to see the progress that’s been made, but there is a challenging road ahead for those of us with this obscure disorder.

Where men are concerned, it may be easy to get lost in the sea of pink that envelops breast cancer; to feel disregarded and snubbed by the medical community, the pharmaceutical industry and even our friends and family members who see the cancer in male breasts as some sort of aberration of a much too common and pervasive illness.

None of this is our fault of course. Or is it? In sheer numbers and statistics, we are a miniscule part of the cancer club; representing a mere 1% of all breast cancer cases. But when all is said and done, the biggest problem as I see it is not that we’re overlooked or ignored; we are simply undiscovered. At the same time, we are the one’s endowed with the capacity to find that bump in the road, or in this case, the bump in our breast that stops us cold on the highway of life.

Most people don’t connect men with breast cancer. And why would they? Far too few health care professionals suggest that the gentlemen among us probe our chests for anything amiss, and society has created a decidedly feminine connection to human breasts. We can’t change that. But the problem doesn’t lie with women or doctors or even society. The problem is men. The problem is us.

Imagine a man, somewhere on your list of acquaintances, spending the day laying shingles on the construction site; hopping on the Harley and speeding home; blowing through a few beers and stepping into the shower to wash off the dust and grease and — check his pecks. This, by the way, is the very stereotype that prevents early detection and kills men. This is the kind of thinking that takes perfectly healthy men and renders them invisible.

This is the world of the “undiscovered.”

The point is, you are no less masculine because you have breasts and no less susceptible to the ravages of breast cancer than your female friends. Like so many men I know who are advocates for early detection in male breast cancer, I too am determined to bring our group into plain view; to not only make us visible where a breast is concerned but to make us indivisible where our quest is concerned.

Voices bring awareness and that in turn brings us out of the shadows and puts us on the grid. This may take some time, but if you are diagnosed with cancer, time doesn’t seem to take up so much space anymore. The time is now. The minute we are survivors of cancer of any kind and at any stage, we become estranged from what might seem like the regular world. Life is no longer reliable, and our future is no longer secure. Early detection can change that.

Thirty seconds in the shower. That’s the time it takes to put on your shoes or pet your cat. That’s about how long it took to read the last two paragraphs in this story. And that may be all the time you need to save your life.

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