WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) – The average man’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is one in a thousand compared to one in eight for the average woman. It may sound like small odds, but it happens. Just ask Matthew Wright of Oberlin.
“I feel a real mission to get the word out that it’s not just women that this happens to,” Wright said.
As a professor of theater at Oberlin College and freelance actor, Wright has performed on stages across Northeast Ohio. But in 2016, he took on a role he didn’t expect.
“My general practitioner is the first person who breathed the words breast cancer, she’s like, you know, it’s rare but it does happen to men.” Wright says he found a lump by chance.
“I was reaching across my body and I felt a kind of electrical charge in my chest. It just felt like a shock almost. I started feeling around to see if I could feel anything and I found a lump,” Wright remembered. “I thought, something isn’t right, so I went to my general practitioner.”
Wright had Stage Two breast cancer which led to a mastectomy, chemotherapy and hormone treatment. A few years later, it came back as Stage Three, meaning the cancer spread to his lymph nodes.
Looking back, Wright realized he missed a sign. “In retrospect, I realized my left nipple had inverted. That happened over the course of a few months.”
Dr. Ashley Simpson is a breast surgeon with University Hospitals. She says the biggest mistake men make is ignoring the signs. “Men have a lot less breast tissue in general than women and so when male breast cancer presents it usually is a firm lump right under the nipple so it’s fairly obvious,” Dr. Simpson said.
Although it may be obvious, statistically speaking, more male breast cancer patients die than women because they don’t get checked. That’s something Wright wants to change.
“The truth is men should do all the things women are doing. While you’re showering, feel the chest area to make sure there aren’t any new unknown developments. The thing is if you don’t take care of it yourself, you don’t go to your general practitioner and have someone look at it, then it may be too late.”
Here are the symptoms of male breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- A lump or swelling in the breast or armpit.
- Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Nipple discharge.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.