‘People need to stop thinking that it is a woman’s disease’: Men’s breast cancer stories
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A breast cancer diagnosis can be scary and life-changing for anyone. As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, it’s important to shine a light on some of the least-told stories.
For men, the risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 833 according to the American Cancer Society, so when they do get a diagnosis it can be isolating.
A 2020 cancer diagnosis for Peter Van Elswyk, an Iowa native, was nothing short of surprising.
“I told some guys at work that I found this lump and I was unsure what it was,” Van Elswyk said. “And a guy across the room said I had a buddy who found a lump under his arm and it was cancer.”
Not only was it breast cancer, but it had also metastasized to his lung. It’s incurable but it is treatable. Van Elswyk said he was the only man he knew who had breast cancer.
“It just felt like I was on this island,” Van Elswyk said.
Enter Pat Washburn of Omaha. She is on a cross-country mission in her Marlyn Mobile. She just is wrapping up her tour through the southeast. Her husband, Marlyn, died of breast cancer five years ago.
“I would give anything to hold his hand again,” Washburn said. “I would give anything to have my husband here.”
She took the last car Marlyn bought, a 2014 Dodge Dart, put a picture of his face on the hood, and now drives all over the states talking with survivors and spreading awareness that “Men Too” can get breast cancer.
For Washburn, it’s a way to remember Marlyn and make sure nobody has to experience the pain she knows all too well.
“I will continue doing what I’m doing as long as I’m able,” Washburn said. “And if I need to have repairs, then I will do it with a car and hopefully I will continue to drive around. I’ve got another trip planned for next year. I’ll do whatever I can. People need to stop thinking that it is a woman’s disease.”
SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER IN MEN:
According to the American Cancer Society
- A lump or swelling, which is often (but not always) painless
- Skin dimpling or puckering (think like the skin of an orange)
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
- Discharge from the nipple (the fluid can vary in color and type)
Van Elswyk and Washburn say, if you find something unusual or different, you need to consult your doctor and push for testing.
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