By: Jennifer Polo
I’ve spoken with many callers in my last two years with the Komen Breast Care Helpline, and it’s not often we get calls from men. When we do, they are often calling on behalf of a wife, sister or friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Rob, however, was an exception. He, like roughly 2,000 other men in the U.S. this year, was shocked to hear his doctor say, “You have breast cancer.”
He called the Helpline feeling frustrated, embarrassed and alone. He needed support, and was unsure where to find it.
Not only had he been diagnosed with breast cancer, but it was triple negative disease. This subtype of breast cancer is rare and very aggressive, and is not found very often in men. (Rob actually had good humor about this, saying that he thought it was pretty remarkable that his tissue was going to be collected and studied by breast cancer researchers.)
Rob had just undergone a lumpectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy. His surgery left him with what he described as “a hole in [his] chest.” Any time he took off his shirt in public, people would ask about the hole: what it was, why it was there, and what had happened.
He found it difficult to talk about his diagnosis with his friends, who couldn’t really understand what he was going through. I was sad to learn that he had also reached out to his doctors to see if they could connect him with a support group, but they weren’t able to help.(Unfortunately, this is something we hear all too often from both men and women facing breast cancer.)
Unwilling to give up, he called the Komen Helpline on a mission: to find a support group where he could speak with other men who have had experiences similar to his.
Rob and I discussed a few nationwide organizations that offer support programs for men, making him feel comfortable – like he could finally meet people who could relate to him. He felt relieved, and was happy to hear that he was welcome to call us back any time with questions or just to talk!
Rob may have been surprised to receive a breast cancer diagnosis, but he was determined to take care of every aspect of his health – an important message for all of us during Men’s Health Month. Being informed about your health, including your risk of breast cancer, is important for men, too. Some warning signs that men should be aware of are described here.
Survival is highest when breast cancer is found early, so please don’t delay if you or a loved one notices a change in the breast or chest area. And remember, no matter how rare a breast cancer diagnosis may be, no man or woman should have to face breast cancer alone.
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