Raising awareness about breast cancer in men

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2013 file photo, chemotherapy is administered to a cancer patient via intravenous drip in Durham, N.C. In a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and results published online Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, by the New England Journal of Medicine, a gene-activity test that was used to gauge early-stage breast cancer patient's risk accurately identified a group of women whose cancers are so likely to respond to hormone-blocking drugs that adding chemo would do little if any good while exposing them to side effects and other health risks. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

ROANOKE, VA (WSLS10)– A Roanoke Valley man is working to raise awareness that breast cancer is not just a disease affecting women. Of the new breast cancer cases diagnosed each year, 99% of cases are in women– but it’s a disease that can have a big impact on men as well with 2,500 new cases each year.

Arthur Watkins is a breast cancer survivor. He says that he, like many men, hadn’t thought too much about breast cancer affecting him.

“Men are funny,” says Watkins. “They don’t think they can get breast cancer and don’t think they have breasts.”

After finding something suspicious, like a lump in the chest area, doctors say men are more likely to ignore it or put off telling their doctors.

Arthur says he found a lump in his chest after wrestling around with his son and decided to have it checked. After a few tests and a mammogram, he was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes.

Breast cancer survival rates and treatment for men are very similar to those for women. Just like in women– early detection is key. With no screening tests or yearly mammogram recommendations for men, like there are for women, Arthur is now encouraging men to check themselves.

“I would do checks just like a female does,” he says. “Any sign that doesn’t seem right, get it checked out and don’t take no for an answer.”

Once he began treatment, Arthur says he found out there were warning signs he ignored– like an inverted nipple and itching under his arm that could have led to an earlier diagnosis.

Now Arthur is sharing his story, working to transport patients at Carilion in Roanoke.

“Cancer kind of changed me. I went back to become an EMT after,” he says. “Then I liked it so much i went back to college and became a paramedic. It was just something I always wanted to do and it’s kind of neat because we deal with a lot of cancer patients and they like to talk to me. It eases their minds.”

Arthur says he will continue sharing his story as he works to raise awareness of breast cancer in men– urging them to do self-checks at home, just like the ones women are encouraged to do.

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