By: Harvey I. Singer
Special to Pro Football Guru
It was a great Sunday night in October, 2008 and the Eagles were in Chicago to play the Bears for a National televised contest. A group of 12 guys, all from Philadelphia originally but now spread around the country, were in to spend a long weekend together known as “Philly Boyz Weekend”. This annual ritual had been occurring every year since 1993 and is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for this group of Philadelphia born and schooled 55-plus year old men. This was their way to follow their beloved Eagles and a way to rekindle their old and long lasting friendships. Golf and great dinners out, followed by a boating tail-gate before the game, made it the perfect weekend.
Suddenly, my great time was interrupted when one of the “Boyz”, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, came up and planted a large bear hug around me. This hug caused an extremely sharp pain to shoot from my left nipple up into my shoulder. It was unlike any pain I had ever experienced in my old beat up body.
MALE BREAST CANCER!
That was the diagnosis after I returned to my upstate New York home and visited my primary physician who immediately sent me for a mammogram and subsequent ultra-sound and then needle biopsy.
Do you know how embarrassing getting a mammogram can be for a man? The entire process is totally emasculating but it is nothing compared to going through a complete mastectomy of your left chest followed by three and a half months of chemotherapy.
Ten years earlier, in 1998 my mom and my sister were diagnosed a month apart with breast cancer. My sister was tested and found she was carrying the BRCA 2 Genetic Mutation which causes many breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers. She warned me that I could also be carrying this BRCA 2 Gene. I ignored her.
That’s what we men do!
Men ignore medical warnings that may get in the way of our life styles. We don’t go to the doctor because it’s not a macho thing to do. No man wants to show his family that he has a weakness. We’re all thinking that we are invincible!
The process and stigma for a man with breast cancer is overwhelming. No man should have to go through it and especially back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed. I vowed that “when” I beat this dreaded disease, that I would find a way to change the way men look at breast cancer…that I would find a way to reach all men and to teach them the warning signs and how to “self-check” their breasts. That I would change the narrative and the way men in this country deal with this social stigma and with this fatal disease.
Here are the facts: There will be about 2,600 new cases documented of male breast cancer in 2014 in the United States. About 400 of these guys will die within five years. Male breast cancer has about four and half times the fatality rate of female breast cancer, because men are diagnosed much later and are not screened properly.
Every year the NFL spends millions and millions of dollars promoting Breast Cancer Awareness for the entire month of October. They will outfit their players and refs with pink gloves, pink towels, pink cleats and dress their stadiums with pink overtones. It is an overwhelming gesture that has raised the plight of female breast cancer awareness dramatically.
But…where’s the BLUE?
I don’t have the exact statistics, but the NFL enjoys a preponderance of male fans. It is estimated that about 78% of their fan base is male. Be it fantasy, the point-spread, stadium attendance and TV viewership are all male dominated.
Would it not help to save men’s lives if the NFL would address (to their primary audience) that they should be aware as well? Awareness is not just for women with breast cancer, but for both sexes.
Six states have now adopted the thir week of October as Male Breast Cancer Awareness week. It would be wonderful if they just mentioned this to their audience. This message from the NFL would carry so much clout!
BRCA Genetic Mutation has a direct link to Breast Cancer. Actually, the BRCA originally stood for BR-east CA-ncer. But 50% of all BRCA carriers are men.
THIS IS A FACT!
Men can carry the gene and end up with breast, prostate, pancreatic or melanoma cancers. Men can also pass this genetic defect along to the daughters or their sons.
Just 18 months after my breast cancer diagnosis, I was told that I also had prostate cancer. Both diseases were caused by my BRCA 2 mutation. BRCA cancers tend to be more aggressive and earlier onset, providing a much more difficult road to beat the disease.
My sister Vicki and I started HIS Breast Cancer Awareness to help assist other men going through this “Woman’s Disease”. We teach not only awareness, but how to eat, drink, exercise and self-check. BRCA has become the other main topic of our foundation. Over 75% of the men and over 60% of the women in the U.S. do not know what BRCA is or how it may impact their lives.
Awareness for men is simple and easy. Men only have to ask their doctor during their annual physical exam to “check their breasts”. Yes, men have breasts too.
If you were a woman having a physical, this check would be standard. As a man, you just have to request it. It takes about 2 minutes to do so. Men should also be aware of the warning signs, which includes; swelling around the nipple area or discharge. To look for an indented nipple or a pain in the breast area that does not subside in a week or so. At HIS Breast Cancer Awareness, we teach men how to do a 3 minute self-check.
We can bury our heads in the sand and think this is not going to affect me, because I’m a guy. Well, take it from this guy, you can close your eyes but it may still find you or another man in your life that you love.
“You’re a ‘male’ by birth, but you’re a ‘MAN’ by choice.” (Herman Edwards) You can “Man Up” and check to insure your health going forward for your family.
HIS Breast Cancer Awareness was founded to teach men and women about all things that are related to male breast cancer. We now teach and direct many toward BRCA testing, recommended when a man reaches 35 or earlier if he plans to start a family. BRCA carriers carry a 50/50 risk of passing along the mutated gene. If anyone in your family; mom, dad, sister, or brother has been diagnosed with breast, prostate, ovarian or pancreatic cancer, you need to dig a little deeper. We are out there saving lives and helping men deal with the stigma and ramifications of breast cancer.
Our message and work has started to create results. More organizations are tailoring their message to the male audience. Many medical facilities have in place specifics for Male Mammograms and MRI Breast imaging. Men are no longer a distant afterthought in the war on breast cancer, but they are still in the distance compared to what we could be doing.
I believe the NFL could help. They just may be saving a large piece of their audience. Additionally, by including men into the conversation, maybe that good chunk of men who “Tune out the Pink” will wake up and hear the entire story.
Harvey I. Singer is the Co-Founder of HIS Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, a full accredited non-profit organization. He has written the book titled: “Sir, You Have Breast Cancer!”, The story of a man going through a woman’s disease. Now 60, Mr. Singer was diagnosed at age 54 with Male Breast Cancer and at age 56 with Prostate cancer. He has appeared Coast to Coast on Talk and News shows, as well as on many Social media forums including The Huffington Post and Everyday Health. Additionally, there has been multiple newspaper articles written about his journey/The HIS-BCA foundation will be featured in the documentary titled, Pink & Blue, due for release in early 2015. The book, “Sir, You Have Breast Cancer!” is available through Amazon in both hard copy and Kindle versions. You can follow Harvey on Twiiter at @UVHarvey.