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      Upper Peninsula man battles breast cancer

      It's estimated that 229,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. About 2,000 of those people will be men.

      Chatham resident Jim Rohrkemper's cancer diagnosis came in an unusual way.

      "And I sneezed," said Rohrkemper. "And the guy that I work with took me over to the emergency room."

      X-rays determined that he had a broken rib. It never healed, leading Rohrkemper to see a thoracic surgeon.

      "He sent me down for an MRI and a PET scan," Rohrkemper added.

      A 21-year Navy veteran, Rohrkemper wasn't surprised when those tests revealed he had cancer. He often worked around radioactive material during his military career. But in April 2009, when doctors told Rohrkemper the type of cancer he had, he was in shock.

      "They called me up the next day and said, 'You've got breast cancer.' No, men don't get breast cancer. Ah, but they do," Rohrkemper said.

      The disease is about 100 times less common among men than women, according to the American Cancer Society. Rohrkemper's oncologist, Dr. Amy Weise, says it's diagnosed and treated the same, regardless of gender.

      "Unfortunately because men aren't necessarily looking for it, often times it's more advanced when it is diagnosed," said Weise.

      The 64-year-old Rohrkemper wasn't looking for it, and by the time it was discovered, there were several cancerous tumors throughout his body. He was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

      "I believe the doctor said that I had two-and-a-half years to live, maybe three. It's been three, it's been over three," Rohrkemper commented.

      Rohrkemper says there are people like him who still don't believe men can get breast cancer, so he's getting the word out.

      "If more men knew they could get it, they might check it, and you won't be stage four like me," Rohrkemper added.

      There are several signs that women and men should be checking for when dealing with breast cancer.

      "If they do feel a lump in the breast or have a nipple inversion or skin changes, they should definitely talk to their physician about it," Weise said.

      "Anytime you see something different, make sure you feel and look for it," Rohrkemper added.

      Rohrkemper currently gets chemotherapy treatment in Marquette about three times a month. The veteran is maintaining a positive attitude through his life's biggest battle.

      "Keep a good outlook on life...I try. I'm basically happy, I try to stand up straight all the time," Rohrkemper concluded.

      For more information about breast cancer in men, visit the American Cancer Society's web site.