Stigma of ‘women’s disease’ prevents men from early diagnosis, treatment
Daryl Monroe was really good at saving other people, but he should have been able to save himself.
At 67, Monroe was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time the cancer was already in Stage 4 — so far along that his chances to live were slim.
Monroe’s wife, Alice, can’t help but think that if there was more awareness about male breast cancer, her husband’s condition could have been detected sooner.
“Men see it as a women’s disease, but it’s not any different for a man to get that diagnosis,” she said.
Daryl Monroe was a machinist and inspector of airplanes. He flew in helicopters as a paramedic, was in the Civil Air Patrol and served as medical captain for the Glade Park Volunteer Fire Department.
He started and ran Big Nugget Supply, an ice company, before selling the business to his son.
He was the first computer science teacher at Mesa College, back when computers filled large rooms.
Daryl Monroe had worked with uranium, his wife said, and breast cancer ran in his family.
After Daryl died Jan. 1, a group of former coworkers and friends walked in his honor at the Junior Service League’s Walk4Life. Their black T-shirts read “SWAT: Afraid of Nothing but Breast Cancer” in pink lettering above the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department insignia. The Junior Service League has included men in its program of offering mammograms to low-income people, not only women. It also launched a campaign of billboards and bench signs with the heading “Real Men Get Breast Cancer.”
Instead of being afraid of the disease, men can just as easily get checked out and check themselves out. Signs of breast cancer are the same for men and women.
Warning signs include an inverted nipple, lumps, discharge from the nipple, skin indents, swelling and possible pain. Men between the ages of 60 and 70 are most at risk, but other contributing factors include family history, obesity and exposure to environmental hazards. Mammograms and self breast exams are for men, too.
Just as with women, men’s chances of survival of breast cancer are high if it’s detected soon enough.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 96 percent of patients survive more than five years if breast cancer is detected soon enough.
Caught in its most advanced stage, Stage 4, the rate of survival drops to 21 percent, the agency reported. About 2,000 men were diagnosed last year with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
During October, pink ribbons are everywhere in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For men, the feminine color may not resonate well, Alice Monroe said.
“Every single woman I know, knows what we should do,” she said, about prevention and checking for the cancer.
Men have been known to tell others they have prostate cancer when they have breast cancer. Alice said she’s heard from men in their 30s who have contracted breast cancer. She hopes the misplaced stigma never again gets in the way of another wife, mother or daughter losing a man in her life.
Alice recalled her husband saying: “Maybe my life has taken on greater meaning now. Maybe now we can save the lives of other men.”