INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – While breast cancer is often only associated with women, nearly 500 men in the United States will die from the disease this year.
Governor Pence declared Oct. 16 through Oct. 22 “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week” in Indiana with the hopes of drawing more attention to the disease and getting more men to know how to detect the symptoms.
“Well if you have any symptoms just like a woman, if you have breast pain or (pain) in the nipple, you need to have it checked out,” breast cancer survivor and Brownsburg resident Darrell Skaggs said.
Skaggs was instrumental in getting Pence to declare the awareness week this year and is an advocate for men battling the disease.
A doctor diagnosed Skaggs with stage two breast cancer in 2010 after he originally went to the hospital for complaints about his gallbladder. He said before his own diagnosis,it never occurred to him that men could get breast cancer.
“At first it is kind of embarrassing,” Skagg said. “I didn’t want people knowing I had breast cancer, because I was in the military back in the ’70s … and it is just kind of like, ‘I’m a man, and they tell me I have breast cancer?’ I mean that was like a slap in the face.”
After several surgeries and several rounds of chemo, Skaggs is now cancer free.
However, during his battle against the disease, Skaggs found it difficult to find a man to talk to who had been through a similar experience. Skaggs says a resource is now available through the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Skaggs said. “If you have breast cancer, go to the doctor, get it taken care of, but then spread the word and then let men know you have breast cancer.”
Skaggs also advocates for men to check themselves for the disease. Doctors say finding breast cancer when it is in the earliest stages is critical for a person’s chance of survival.
“See a lot of men just brush it off, and I would have too,” Skaggs said. “I mean men have breasts just like women… So if you have any kind of a sign I’d for sure check it out.”
Signs include a mass underneath the nipple and any changes to the skin color to that area.