Yes, men get breast cancer, too

  • Kristi O’Harran / Herald Columnist
  • Monday, November 3, 2003 9:00pm
  • Local News

Roger Edwards didn’t hide the fact that he had breast cancer.

On the contrary, he posed nearly nude for the Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation calendar. I wrote about the calendar last year and didn’t anticipate revisiting the topic.

Then, in the 2004 edition, Mr. August caught my eye. The other 11 months featured nude women posed tastefully with angel wings to bring awareness to the disease.

I thought Mr. August must just be a great supporter of the cause, but indeed, he found a lump and underwent a mastectomy.

Nationwide, male breast cancer accounts for 1 percent of cases of breast cancer, and it represents about 0.2 percent of all malignancies in men.

In women, breast cancer represents 26 percent of all cancers. Edwards, an engineering technician with Island County Public Works, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year and half ago. Taking a shower, he felt a BB-sized lump under his nipple. The Navy veteran, who lives in Oak Harbor, said it hurt a little bit.

"And I’m a guy," Edwards, 56, said. "Two months later, I felt the pain again. This time, it was six times larger."

At a regular physical, his doctor seemed unconcerned, Edwards said. He was told to go home and only revisit the doctor if the lump bothered him.

By a stroke of luck that may have saved his life, Edwards discussed the lump with a friend who had cancer. His friend advised that if there is something growing inside your body that is bothering you, find out what it is.

That simple advice prompted Edwards to return to his doctor. When the lump was tested, it was cancerous.

"My mind went blank when I heard the word," Edwards said. "My immediate thought was, where do I go from here?"

He underwent a lumpectomy and mastectomy, followed by four months of difficult chemotherapy. His credits his faith in God for his survival.

"I never gave breast cancer a thought until it happened to me," Edwards said. "I made me aware it can happen to anybody."

He got used to his sunken left breast, he said. Not much of a swimmer, Edwards said going topless won’t be a problem. He said his wife, Diana, simply accepts her husband’s scars.

"We were close before," he said. "This brought us closer. This gave me a different passion for life itself."

Though he was frightened when he was diagnosed, Edwards said, he got over the trepidation to tell folks he had breast cancer. Above all he wants to spread the word that if you are worried about something growing inside of you, insist on a biopsy, he said.

And that goes for men.

At a cancer awareness event at Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville, Edwards met Jan Harris with the Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation.

It took him all of two minutes to agree to pose for the calendar.

The Foundation aims to help survivors feel better about their bodies and let others know getting breast cancer isn’t the end of the world for the large majority.

"Don’t let a scar or loss of a breast stop one from truly living," Harris said. "We need to enjoy each day to the fullest — that’s the message we try to bring with the calendar."

The 2003 version sold in all 50 states and six foreign countries. CBS flew in and filed a story that aired on "The Early Show," Harris said. The new calendar will help Mr. August get the word out about examining lumps.

"Awareness is the most important thing to me," Edwards said. "This is an insidious disease."

But there are angels, like Edwards, who are there to help.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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