90-year-old breast cancer patient urges men to get checked

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A 90-year-old breast cancer patient is sharing an urgent message during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, warning men to be vigilant as well.

While breast cancer is rare in men, experts say one in 833 is diagnosed in the United States each year. About 400 die from it annually.

Marvin Wax, of New York City, and his wife of 68 years Sandy -- a breast cancer survivor herself -- are encouraging everyone to pay attention to their bodies and seek medical attention if unusual changes are taking place.

Traditionally thought of as a woman's disease, Marvin was too embarrassed to see a doctor when he suspected that something was wrong -- and now he's being treated for breast cancer.

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He says he "felt something" in the area of his left breast last year but just couldn't bring himself to tell anyone about it. Finally, at his wife's insistence, he agreed to see a doctor.

"He was even ashamed to tell me about it, which is such a foolish thing," she said. "Because I would've dragged him to the doctor right away."

In August 2020, he was seen by Dr. Paul Baron, Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of the Breast Cancer Program at Lenox Hill Hospital/Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.

During the exam, Marvin told Dr. Baron that he'd been aware of a large mass in his left breast for about a year but was too embarrassed to come in for an evaluation.

"I just ignored it," he said. "I was embarrassed and ashamed that at this stage in my life, I had to have breast cancer."

A needle biopsy in the office returned positive for invasive cancer of the left breast, and the tumor was estrogen receptor positive.

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mammograms are down by 25%.

"So many of us are worried that we're going to be finding more advanced cancers, because people are delaying getting their mammogram," Dr. Baron said.

Currently, Marvin is being treated with anti-estrogen medication and will be re-examined later this year. If there is no response to the medication, he will undergo surgery to remove the tumor.

Now, the Waxes are hoping other men are listening tp their story.

"We both cried in the room, that was how we felt about it," Sandy said. "It's just a terrible thing."

But they found strength in humor and candor.

"I really envy women, because when they have a mammogram, I gotta tell you, it must hurt a lot," Marvin said. "Because it sure hurt the hell out of me when I had it."

They are surviving -- and thriving -- together.

"I don't know if you can get much closer," Marvin said. "We were boyfriend and girlfriend for four years before we got married...In 2022, we want to celebrate our 70th wedding anniversary. So I'm looking to Dr. Baron to keep me going."

Sandy, who has known her husband since she was 15 years old, believes that cancer -- like all diseases -- is a family problem. She joined her husband in encouraging men to get over their embarrassment and seek help at the first sign of trouble.

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