BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – One in eight women will get a breast cancer diagnosis in her lifetime.
For men, the lifetime risk of a breast cancer diagnosis is about one in 833.
Owen Toale is one of them.
“Men have breasts, too,” Toale said, “and we need to pay attention to what our body’s telling us about these breasts.”
“I didn’t,” he added.
Toale was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. He had mastectomy and has continued treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center since then.
Eight years ago, he learned he had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, after some of his tumors moved to his lungs.
“The problem with being stage 4 metastatic is I will never be cured. I can only be managed. The tumors can be managed,” Toale said.
As a man with breast cancer, Toale is in a very small club.
Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases are in men.
“There’s only about 2,600 per year in the United States of new cases,” pointed out Dr. Tracey O’Connor, associate professor of oncology at Roswell Park.
“I think many men are surprised,” she said. “They think that it’s something that could possibly happen to them.”
Certainly Toale did not immediately think he had cancer when he noticed what he assumed was a cyst in his breast.
“Initially, I thought it was an inverted nipple,” he said. “My wife said ‘you go to the doctor for a cold, I wish you’d have that checked out,’ and I did.”
Seventeen years later, Toale is sharing his story at every opportunity.
He wants to make sure men know breast cancer can strike them, too. The risk is especially high for men who have a family history of breast cancer.
Because breast cancer in men is so rare, men do not get routine screenings like mammograms.
However, men can and should do regular self-exams.
“Especially if a man notices a change in the skin of his breast or a mass, he should absolutely bring it to someone’s attention very quickly,” Dr. O’Connor said.
“Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to the signs that it’s getting you. See your doctors, whether it’s your primary care or the experts and scientists and researchers here at Roswell Park,” Toale agreed. “You need to pay attention to what your body is telling you.”
To learn more about breast cancer in men and Toale’s story, click here.