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Male Breast Cancer

October 24, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Male Breast Cancer
TEA, SD -

It's no secret that many men don't pay enough attention to their health. That's especially true when it comes to breast health.

While breast cancer is relatively rare in men, striking just 2,000 men every year, many of those who are diagnosed with the disease don't catch it early.

But a Tea man's diagnosis has him encouraging other men to pay closer attention to their own breast health.

Handmade bracelets started out as a Boy Scout project, but now they have a different purpose.

"He's getting to be a survivor of cancer. We're calling them survivor bracelets," Samantha Andrews said.

You see Samantha's dad, Garry, who's a scoutmaster, went to the doctor for a physical before a Boy Scout event.

"I felt a spot on my chest, but I had another one on my arm for almost 20 years that they said was just fatty tissue, and I thought it was the same thing," Garry said.

Instead, on the day before Garry and his wife, Denise's, 25th wedding anniversary, doctors diagnosed him with breast cancer.

"Shock, disbelief, what next?" Denise said.

"A couple people, when I said it, they didn't realize it could happen to men.  But most of them said they've heard of it, but haven't met anyone," Garry said.

Garry then had to undergo surgery to remove the cancer and has now done four rounds of chemotherapy.

Fortunately for Garry his cancer was caught early on at stage two; it had not spread to his lymph nodes.

"Most men end up being stage three at diagnosis because they just didn't think of anything. Occasionally, there are men who are well-tuned to their bodies or are aware of male breast who seek early attention," Sanford Oncologist Dr. Michael Keppen said.

"When you find something, don't wait. Call your doctor," Garry said.

It's a message he's now spreading through the survivor bracelets made of parachute cord.

"I know what a parachute is.  When you're flying down and you pull it, so you don't go, 'Whee!'," Samantha said.

With proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society, they are now a lifeline the entire family is working on.

"Pretty important because I love him," Samantha said.

Doctor Keppen says most men with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. Two of Garry's great aunts battled breast cancer and one of his female cousins was just diagnosed.

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