Emotional Story Reminds Us All Even Men Can Get Breast Cancer

vectorfusionart / shutterstock.com
vectorfusionart / shutterstock.com

It’s something many of us have joked about. Why do men have nipples? While we’d be odd to imagine life without them, they are unnecessary for our survival. Yet John Hall’s nipples gave him the clues he needed to find out he had breast cancer. Waking up to spots on his t-shirts in the morning, he eventually saw his doctor. Not knowing what to look for or what the first signs were, he just went.

Telling his story with Local 12 of Cincinnati, Hall shares how he was sent to see Dr. Jennifer Manders. Once he and his late wife Sally met with the doctor, she broke the news to them. He has breast cancer. Something that he openly admits made him weep then as it did a bit now.

Going over options as a trio, he and Sally opted for a nipple-sparing bilateral mastectomy from the team at Manders’ office. According to Dr. Manders, “So, we can lift the nipple up off of the underlying breast tissue, as long as the tumor cells aren’t involving the nipple, and we can save the nipple.”

Now a decade later, Hall is still alive, and doing well. He says the key for his is frequent self-exams in the shower, and it’s a good way for him to prevent it from coming back. The duo wants to see other men take it more seriously. “About one in 1,000 men gets breast cancer, and if you look at the total amount of breast cancer, about 1% is affecting men,” Dr. Manders said.

“I don’t think men should be embarrassed that they have breast cancer. I’m here to tell you, you can survive,” said Hall.

Stories like Hall’s are becoming more and more common. Testimonies from many men are out there, and they all share the same level of embarrassment and shame. Given the propensity for it to be found in women, it’s not surprising men would be bothered to get it. The feelings of being weaker or lesser of a man for such a diagnosis is not uncommon, especially in very masculine men.

Getting over this starts with getting someone to talk to following diagnosis. Support groups online or in person can be a huge help. As shown extensively in the cult classic Fight Club, these clubs can provide a sense of being and can help keep men together. While in the film they focused on a testicular cancer group, the response and feelings in men with breast cancer turn out to be very similar.

For Hall, this is a traumatic time. Getting breast cancer AND losing your wife in under 10 years? That will knock the wind out of any man’s sails, yet Hall just kept pushing forward like a Marine. This is the kind of dedication that books are written about and benches are dedicated to. His efforts in fighting through this are noble, and early detection helped him to persevere.

Others who have survived this cancer have similar stories. Each with its own twists and turns, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease. Getting checked when you think something is up is the best way to keep yourself safe.