Protect the Pecs: Men Can Get Breast Cancer, Too

Protect the Pecs: Men Can Get Breast Cancer, Too
Steve Del Gardo, Protect the Pecs
Steve Del Gardo, director and founder of Protect the Pecs, and a breast cancer survivor.

October is here, and we all know what that means … PINK, PINK, PINK. Everywhere we look, we will be seeing the Pink Ribbon on everything, raising awareness of breast cancer in women. Not men … just women. While raising breast cancer in women is a great goal, using the pink ribbon neglects men with the disease.  This needs to stop, and we need to start including men in all awareness campaigns. Even though the disease is rare in men, men are dying from it too. It can’t be just Pink anymore; it needs to include Blue. Pink and Blue.

As a man who traveled the journey, I often felt alone and isolated. I was never aware that men could get breast cancer, because society has repeatedly reinforced that this is a woman’s disease. I was naïve. I was uneducated. We were all fooled and we will continue being fooled by society. We need to stop this insanity, and educate all that MEN CAN GET BREAST CANCER, TOO!

Here is a brief summary of my breast cancer odyssey. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 2a HER2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer. The weird thing is that breast cancer isn’t relevant in my family, and I am BRCA negative (no mutations). So where did it come from? No one knows. Doctors stated that it was all the soy protein milk shakes I was consuming every day for over 12 months. The soy, which contain isoflavones that mimic estrogen activity, could have been the catalyst to my breast cancer. But, as I mentioned, no research into why I got it continues.

Six months before I was diagnosed, I went to see my doctor, at which time he stated that the tumor was benign. Looking back, I realize I should have received a second opinion, then maybe all of this would be a moot point. But I cannot dwell on  past “what if’s” because that just isn’t healthy. I think God had a plan for me, and it was to get this Cancer so I can create a foundation to help other men and their families. I believe the Cancer was a blessing. That is correct, I did say blessing. Most people, if not all, would say that “I am nuts.” But I found my true calling, and I had to suffer first to help those in need by raising awareness. The nonprofit I created is called Protect the Pecs. I would recommend reading my story in full detail at www.protectthepecs.org.

We have to educate more people about men and breast cancer. Over 2.8 billion men on this planet do not think they can get breast cancer. When I look at that number, I just sit there in bewilderment, thinking: how are we going to educate all of those men. It is staggering.

The numbers of men getting breast cancer is small compared to the 246,000 women that will be newly diagnosed this year — but not as small as many people think.

Most references state that 2,350 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, which accounts for 1% of breast cancer cases. But that number cannot be correct. Earlier this year, I did a study with Dr. Linda Girgis involving approximately 1,000 doctors in the U.S. They were asked how many men they treat each year for breast cancer. The average cited was about 6 patients each, so that would be about 6,000 men per year. That is quite different than the 2,350 men that most, if not all foundations, quote. Why is there a big difference? I cannot answer that. But we are not here to talk about numbers; we are here to talk about educating and helping those men to understand that they can get breast cancer, too. It is clear that we do not have all the facts about men with breast cancer, and more study needs to be done to identify men who have the disease and how they got it.

Breast cancer can be hereditary in both men and women. The genetic mutation can be passed down from women or men to their offspring. However, sometimes it isn’t hereditary. It can happen due to the environment, hormones in the foods we eat, or being exposed to radiation. We need more research into why individuals develop breast cancer, especially men, as their risk factors are less clearly defined.

2.8 Billion Men! What does this number represent? That is how many men in this world do not know they can get breast cancer. What happens in men when they discover a lump in or near their breast? They ignore it, because they do not consider that it may be cancer. This delay in diagnosis often leads to a worse outcome in men. The fact that people do not know men can get breast cancer is not just a lack of education; it is lethal and men are dying because of it.

As soon I discovered that I had lump in my left pec area, I didn’t wait to go to see my doctor like most men would, I went that same day. If I didn’t go, I don’t think I would be here today. But maybe the men who didn’t go the same day aren’t here today. And if they had known they could get breast cancer, maybe they would be.

Isn’t it time we all stand up and let the world know that breast cancer doesn’t only attack women, but men as well? Maybe the life saved will be your husband or father or brother.

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