- Associated Press - Sunday, August 24, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - “Hey, you’ve got an innie and an outie.”

With those words, Jane Jackson may have saved her husband’s life 15 years ago.

“We were swimming and she looked down at my chest,” said Dr. Robert Jackson, 57, a Shreveport internal medicine specialist. “Inversion of the nipple is a common sign of breast cancer. So I looked down and sure enough, one of my nipples was inverted. That was new. I naturally put my hand up there. It was the first time I felt a lump that was noticeably a lump.”

So began more than five years of treatment for Jackson, who graduated from the medical school in Shreveport in 1982 and joined its faculty in 1986. He had a modified radical mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy and five years of hormonal treatments.

“I did not have to get radiation,” said Jackson.

Now he just sees his primary care doctor annually.

Despite advances in treatment and detection, that doesn’t mean he breathes easy.

“Breast cancer is known for its late recurrences, so that old story about ‘if you’re cancer free for five years it’s OK’ isn’t true.’”

He continued to see his specialist, Dr. Gary Burton, oncologist at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, for another five years.

Like most men, he hadn’t seen a doctor regularly. Cancer changed that.

“The need for some regular follow-up caused me to get a primary care doctor,” he said. Annual visits for cancer checks are now his norm, but it doesn’t keep him awake nights.

When he was diagnosed, Jackson and and another Shreveporter who has been vocal about his battle with male breast cancer, retired LSU Shreveport Chancellor Vincent Marsala, were Burton’s only active male patients, but six other men with more advanced cases were being treated symptomatically.

Burton, also a professor at LSU Health Shreveport, said prostate cancer is the most common tumor in men, and lung cancer kills more men and women than any other cancer. “But when you’re talking about breast cancer, it’s a little less than one percent of all the breast cancers we see in a male,” he said. Nationally, he said, fewer than 2,000 a year are diagnosed, with about 450 deaths a year.

Despite advances in its visibility - men now take part in the Susan G. Komen events that have made breast cancer a very high-profile illness - and advances in treatment and research, it remains more deadly for men.

“It’s very treatable,” says Burton. “If a woman has a breast lump, the chance of it being breast cancer is very low, way less than 10 percent. But if a man has a breast lump it is more likely to be cancer than in a woman.” About half of all breast lumps in men are cancerous, he said.

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