NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while most stories focus on women, men are directly affected too.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu on Wednesday soke with two men who have a lot to talk about. They both worked near the World Trade Center on 9/11, and they were both diagnosed with breast cancer years later.
Jeff Flynn says first sign came while carrying his dog.
“The dog bumped into my chest, and I actually felt some pain and a bit of swelling,” he said. “I ignored it because I was ignorant of the disease.”
Six months later, reality struck him while he was on vacation with his wife.
“I took my shirt off to go to the beach and my wife said, ‘Jeff, your left nipple is inverted. It’s a classic symptom of breast cancer, you’re going to the doctor as soon as we get back’,” Jeff said.
Nathan Spencer was diagnosed in 2006.
“It was fatalistic I guess you could say,” he told CBS2. “Cancer? Especially breast cancer, men don’t get breast cancer.”
Nathan and Jeff are now doing well following mastectomies, chemotherapy, and radiation. Attorney Michael Barasch represents over two dozen men with breast cancer who believe they contracted the illness from 9/11 toxins, and says men need to get checked out especially if they were south of Canal Street on 9/11 or in the following eight months.
“We don’t do self-examinations, we don’t have gynecologists, and we don’t go for annual exams,” he said. “So many men ignore the symptoms and when they’re finally diagnosed it’s often metastasized.”
Doctors can easily check for breast cancer by feeling around the chest area, and they say men should also be examining themselves. Dr. Lauren Cassell says it’s easy to do it in the shower.
“When you run your hand over your chest and there’s something there that your fingers don’t recognize it tells your brain ‘I don’t remember that being there’,” the chief of Breast Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital said. “So any change or any hard lump underneath or near the nipple they should bring to attention of their physician.”
They key, says Dr. Cassell, is early detection.