Man who survived breast cancer advocates awareness among other men

Darrell Skaggs educates men about breast cancer

BROWNSBURG, Ind. - While breast cancer is primarily a female affliction, about 2,200 men will be diagnosed with it for the first time this year and about 400 will die, the American Cancer Society said.

Darrell Skaggs, of Brownsburg, didn't know men could get breast cancer until he did three years ago. He's now on a mission to educate others.

"It just shocks you. You don't know what to do," Skaggs said. "I was just like in a daze."

In Skaggs' case, the discovery was made while he was on an operating table having a lumpectomy.

"I was just stunned," he said.

His ordeal began just weeks earlier with pain he attributed to his problematic gall bladder, but a CT scan revealed something more -- a mass on his chest.

Skaggs was sent for additional testing to the Women's Center at Indiana University Health West, not a place the husband, father and grandfather thought he would be.

"A technician comes out and she says,' We're going to do a mammogram,' and I said, 'You're what?' I said, 'You can't be serious,'" Skaggs said.

Skaggs' doctor later called with a devastating diagnosis.

"He said, 'I hate to do this over the phone, but I know you want to know right away,'" Skaggs said. "He said, 'It's breast cancer.'"

Skaggs' cancer had advanced to stage two and involved lymph nodes. Doctors performed a mastectomy and removed a couple of lymph nodes.

Through surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, Skaggs isolated himself.

"I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to talk about it," he said. "I didn't want anybody to know that I had breast cancer. It was like, 'Leave me alone.'"

But after he recovered, Skaggs had a change of heart, deciding to speak out about breast cancer on a national stage.

The Ford Motor Co. selected Skaggs to be a "Warriors in Pink – Models of Courage," one of 11 survivors to model apparel Ford sells to raise money for breast cancer causes and to share personal stories.

"I want women to know that they need to tell their husbands, their brothers, their dads. Everybody needs to know this," he said.

Skaggs spread the message last year, when crowds of men packed downtown while Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl.

"I just asked men, 'Do you know you can get breast cancer?' and you'd be surprised at the number of men who say there is no way," Skaggs said. "Yes, there is a way. I'm living proof."

The warning signs for men are similar to those for women. Men should be checked if they notice any change in the breast or nipple, including a lump, hard knot or thickening.

An itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple or nipple discharge should also be checked.

Still, breast cancer is not very common among men. For every 100 cases involving a woman, less than one involves a man.

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