Father’s Day. A day we honor the fathers in our life. It can be a day particularly fraught with emotion for families touched by breast cancer.
The first father most of us want to honor is the father who gave us life. Fortunate women learned strength, courage, and compassion from this father and use these qualities to cope with cancer. Those without this sort of father may have had other father figures–an uncle, teacher, or minister–who have helped them become the strong woman they are today.
Then there are the fathers of our children. These are the men in our life who hold our heads while we vomit from chemo and take the kids out to the park so we can rest. This Father’s Day, many breast cancer patients are filled with fear. Will their children’s father be able to take care of them if the worst happens? The answer, almost always, is yes. Maybe your daughter’s dad can’t French braid as well as you, but he will find his own ways of making her feel beautiful.
I am particularly grateful for the fathers of our grandchildren.
It is a privilege for me to be alive to watch them nurture our little ones.What about all those fathers who aren’t related to us by blood? This weekend would be a good time to thank the guy down the street who has mowed your yard and taken the kids to scouts, so that your husband can go to the doctor with you. We rely on a whole host of men to teach and be role models for our children.
We can’t forget the families where it is Dad who has male breast cancer. Although only about one percent of all breast cancers occur in men, according to the American Cancer Society, that still equals about 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer and about 440 deaths from male breast cancer.
Men can get all the types of breast cancer that women can get: ductal, lobular, inflammatory, Paget’s, and so forth. Exposure to radiation, diseases that increase a man’s estrogen level, and a family history of breast cancer are all risk factors for male breast cancer. Usually male breast cancer is found when a man notices a lump. Because of its rarity, men needn’t worry about breast cancer, but they do need to see their doctor, just like women, when they notice a lump or other changes.
On Father’s Day, a male breast cancer survivor may be worrying about whether his disease has raised his children’s risk for breast cancer. A frank discussion with a genetic counselor may be the best present a dad could give himself this year. Sure it isn’t as exciting as a new tie, but it could set his mind at ease.
Every day is a good day to appreciate the fathers in our lives, but Father’s Day is a good reminder of all the men who have taught and supported us. We honor and thank them.
Read More About Men and Breast Cancer
What Are the Key Statistics for Breast Cancer in Men? American Cancer Society. Feb 26, 2015. Accessed from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-key-statistics June 17, 2015.
Male Breast Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. November 2014. Accessed from http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/male-breast-treatment-pdq June 17, 2015.
Phyllis Johnson is an inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) survivor diagnosed in 1998. She has written about cancer for HealthCentral since 2007. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the oldest 501(3)© organization focused on research for IBC. She is a list monitor for an online support group at www.ibcsupport.org. Phyllis attends conferences such as the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD® Institute. She tweets at @mrsphjohnson.