ROCHESTER, Minn.- Breast Cancer Awareness month is right around the corner. Although women are more likely than men to get the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates about 2,650 men will be diagnosed with it in 2021.
Patricia Washburn is a Nebraska resident whose husband died from breast cancer in 2017. Ever since his death, she's been an advocate of education on the disease. This year, she's on tour with The Male Breast Cancer Coalition co-founder and president Cheri Ambrose, to raise awareness.
"He was one of the men that did not think men can get breast cancer," says Washburn. "In December 2016, he went into his doctor for an A16 check. We got a call the next day that one of his liver enzymes was elevated."
Washburn's husband then had an ultrasound.
"One thing led to another and they diagnosed him with breast cancer."
He died five months later.
"He looked healthy, he felt good, but it already metastasized from his breast, to his liver, both lungs, his lymph nodes, and his bones. He had pain in his arm that we assume was from golfing. He also had eight tumors in his brain."
After his death, she took his car, decorated it, and teamed up with The Male Breast Cancer Coalition to inform the public.
"We need to reach out. The men need to know that they're not alone. They need to know that when they're going through breast cancer, there's such a stigma and we're just trying to break down that barrier and let them know they are not in this alone."
Dr. Kathryn Ruddy is an oncologist who leads Mayo Clinic's cancer survivorship program and encourages all men to get checked for the disease.
"Men may not realize that if they find a breast abnormality, they need to see a physician about that," says Ruddy. "If there's a lump in the breast or a nipple discharge, they need to have an ultrasound, mammogram, whatever the physician deems appropriate because breast cancer is not only found in women. It can affect men."
To encourage them to get checked, Washburn uses her husband's car as both a memorial and traveling billboard. Rochester is one of the stops of her four-week trip to more than 40 cities.
The tour wraps up Tuesday where Washburn and Ambrose will be making a stop in Kansas City, Kansas.