Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Breast Cancer is Not Just an Issue for Women

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, while breast cancer in women gets most of the focus, it should be remembered that men are liable to the disease, too. 

Tom Retzack is a man's man, a sports official who puts on the stripes and blows the whistle at football, basketball, and baseball games. Tom is also a breast cancer survivor, who will soon pass the nine-year mark since his first diagnosis. He's glad he was sitting down when the doctor gave him the diagnosis of breast cancer.

"Let's say a little bit of a shock: I'm a male, I got breast cancer. I'm shocked. Because not knowing, not thinking ahead, and being, what in the year I was diagnosed, 2000 guys were diagnosed, but I was one of the very few in this area to be diagnosed."

This year, about 2200 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and over 400 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Tom has no problem sharing his story with other men, who he says are often very shocked, just like he was.

"I really think they are. Because they don't think 'OK, well, yeah, he's got breasts', but, you know, they don't think that it's a fatty tissue in a guy, and whatever."

A family history of breast cancer often puts men at risk, but that was not the case with Retzack. The cause of most breast cancers in men is still unknown. It's about a hundred times less common in men than in women.

Tom's advice to other men is to do self-examinations.

"If you develop a lump in the area, and you go to a doctor, please have him check it out. Because 90 percent of the doctors who perform physicals do not give a male a breast cancer exam. They will give you a testicular exam, but they will not give you a breast cancer exam."

The American Cancer Society says the best things a man can do to lower his risk of breast cancer are to reduce alcohol consumption and maintain a healthy body weight. The best strategy for reducing deaths caused by breast cancer is early detection, and that's true for both men and women. 

For more information on breast cancer you can contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

Tom Joseph

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