I think by now we’re all aware of breast cancer, but maybe not all of the facts about it. I think it’s wonderful to get the information out there – how to decrease your odds of developing it, how to check for it, etc. The one thing that I think is the least known and discussed fact about breast cancer is that it’s a disease that also plagues men. I’m sure some people know that, but every time I see something about breast cancer, it’s accompanied by a picture of a woman. Also, most things that are written about breast cancer only include words such as “her” or “she”, and a phrase such as “your mom, your sister, your girlfriend…” and completely leave out males. It is more common in women, but by only mentioning women, I think it gives the impression that it can ONLY happen to women.\
I happen to know two men who had breast cancer.
I think it’s important for women to get checked and be aware of the importance of early diagnosis, but I think it’s just as important for men. Women are always reminded by their doctors and society to get their mammograms. They get breast exams during their annual gynecology appointments, and are reminded to do their monthly self-exams. This is a good thing. However, it’s rare for men to be reminded or checked. The American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/) says that men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting breast cancer during their lifetime. That’s significantly lower than a woman’s 1 in 8 chance, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t think about it or take it seriously. One thing I learned while researching male breast cancer is that it’s often diagnosed late. We all know that early detection is extremely important for raising survival rates. I think for that reason alone, it’s worth making the breast cancer awareness campaign more gender neutral. Not only do we want to make sure everyone gets the message, we really need to de-stigmatize male breast cancer. I wonder how many men delay testing because they don’t think it could happen to them. I wonder how many ignore the possibility because they don’t want to admit they might have a “woman’s disease”. It could honestly prevent some men from broaching the subject with their doctors – or vice versa! According to the website Web MD (http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/breast-cancer-men), there are some unique problems with breast cancer in men. Not only do men tend to get diagnosed much later than women do, but since they have less breast tissue, it’s more difficult to detect, and tumors can spread faster. That is bad news for the men who do develop breast cancer.
I can’t help but wonder how many men never get diagnosed and treated because of the perception that breast cancer is a woman’s problem. I wonder if the incidence of male breast cancer is actually much higher than we think. Either way, it seems to me that men might need even earlier diagnosis than women to have a similar survival rate, since it spreads faster. According to BreastCancer.org (http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20120517), men actually do have a lower survival rate at each stage, which does suggest the importance of earlier diagnosis for them.
While doing research, I found a website (https://www.malebreastcancer.org/) of an organization that was created in memory of a man who died at age 58 from breast cancer, and it states on the home page that AWARENESS COULD HAVE SAVED HIS LIFE. They’ve been promoting awareness since 1995 that males can also get breast cancer.
So please, tell everyone you love to check for breast cancer – your male loved ones as well as your female ones. It could save someone’s life!