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Doctors encourage men to get checked too during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Andrew Hyman
Updated: October 10, 2019 11:40 PM
Created: October 10, 2019 11:36 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) — From September 2016 to 2017 Rochester Attorney Jim Hinman's life involved hats, wigs, and intense treatment, with several ups and downs along the way.

"It was a rough road," Hinman said.

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That’s because, after months of putting off what he says was a weird feeling in his breasts, he was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

News10NBC’S Andrew Hyman: Did you know that men could get breast cancer before you were diagnosed?
Hinman: Theoretically, yes I knew that it was possible, but it's so unlikely, that's why that thought never crossed my mind."

According to Dr. Avice O’Connell at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Strong Hospital, he's not alone.

She says breast cancer is rare in men as men have a one in 1,000 chance at being diagnosed. Roughly 2,600 men are diagnosed every year and about 500 patients die.

O’Connell says by the time most men get checked, the cancer is already far along.

"Because men aren't aware, and they are not as quick to check or seek help," O’Connell said.

O’Connell screens men every year and she says when they develop symptoms, like pain, or a lump in their breast, some brush it off, much like Hinman did. She says part of that is simply due to embarrassment. 

"They're embarrassed to tell anyone, they're embarrassed to go to their doctor," she said.

O’Connell says most men who come in wind up not having cancer. Instead, they often have a benign condition known as “gynecomastia.” But, she still encourages a man to step forward if something does not feel right.

Hinman says he took a more positive approach to his diagnosis. He says there were not as many resources, like support groups or even wig availability, but says he understands his case was rare. He says getting checked is the right thing to do.

"Because if they don't, it won't go away, it will get worse," said Hinman.

Hinman says he has not had a reoccurrence in his cancer since he was cleared in 2017, but he still goes to get mammograms.

According to O’Connell, men in their 70s and African American men are most at risk. She says family history and genetics could increase your chances, too.

O'Connell says there are not regular mammogram screenings for men like there is for women. But, if you notice a bump or have questions about your genes, you are encouraged to speak to your doctor.

Click here for some more info on risks, and what to look for.


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