Breast Cancer Month
Men fight breast cancer too
Our week long look at issues related to breast cancer continues as we focus on a tiny but important minority of breast cancer patients and their unique battle... men battling breast cancer.
Ron Skaug, Town of Lisbon, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, "I found out by accident." His doctor found a lump after Skaug complained of strange nipple irritation during a routine physical exam. After a few more visits to doctors, he heard the words breast cancer.
"Mind went blank. Anything that was said beyond that had no meaning to me."
The statistics for men and this disease are small, only 2,000 men were diagnosed in the United States in all of 2009. Dr. Rafael Santana-Davila is a breast cancer specialist with Froedert and The Medical College of Wisconsin. He's treated men with breast cancer, "It only makes about a half percentage of all the cancer related deaths, so it is very rare."
Skaug confirmed that being a man with breast cancer was a very alienating experience, "All of the questions that come to my mind... I was alone.
Dr. Santana-Davila says much of what they know and how they treat male breast cancer comes from what's already known about women with the disease. That can make things tough for guys getting treatment, "They do have that stigma. I mean they come into the typical breast clinic where the waiting room is full of women and there's a pink ribbon."
Skaug says he thinks most men don't want to go to the doctor for any reason, let alone something they push off as a disease that could never touch them, "Being macho means that nothing is going to cause any problems. If they bother you, you just dismiss them."
I ran into former Green Bay Packer LeRoy Butler on another breast cancer story but he sounded off on men fighting the disease too, "We got four guys that we are helping right now that has breast cancer."
The LeRoy Butler Foundation has focused in on helping individuals who are uninsured or underinsured and Butler says he also wants to cause a culture shift, "We just don't like going to the doctor. But for the most part we're starting to change starting to change that culture a little bit."
Skaug says he believes education is crucial to save men's lives. He volunteers with a group called After Breast Cancer Diagnosis where he's mentored other men with breast cancer. But he says it is the men's wives that have been the gateways for getting help to the husbands, "She was the person that had all the questions. And if you could get through to her, and you could explain everything that was going on, somehow that got assimilated between she and the husband over time. And each session that you had with the mentoring process with the male then becomes a little bit easier and he tends to open up a little bit more."
Ron says he hopes more men realize that changing their attitude and gaining a little education, could be a life-saver.