Remember the HBO classic, “Oz?” It was one of the network’s first weekly dramas and focused on the raucous ins-and-outs of the fictional Oswald Correctional Facility. One of the most fascinating storylines was Ryan O’Reilly’s. He was a violent and manipulative inmate who pitted his enemies against each other and sent his brother to the electric chair. But what separated him from his fellow inmates weren’t his controversial antics; it was the lump he discovered in his breast in the second season. O’Reilly was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent aggressive treatment. “Oz” was the first television program that taught me that breast cancer was gender indiscriminate. Men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes according to the BreastCancer.gov. The American Cancer Society reported that this year, there will 2,190 new cases of invasive breast cancer among men and about 410 men will die from it.Actor Richard Roundtree, who is revered for his turn as John Shaft in 70s Blaxploitation flicks, is one of the fortunate survivors. He stumbled on a cancerous lump in his right breast in the 1970s. To combat the illness, he received a mastectomy before undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
However, most African American men aren’t as blessed. Researchers from Columbia University found that black men are:
– More likely to have later-stage disease and larger tumors than white men.
– 48 percent less likely to be referred to a medical oncologist.
– 56 percent less likely to receive chemotherapy.
– Less likely to survive five years. Among black men, survival is 66 percent compared to 90 percent of white male patients.