Men Get Breast Cancer Too
by D. Bachand, RMT
Breast Cancer used to be thought of as something that occured only in women - but breast cancer does not discriminate and in case you didn't notice men have breasts too.
While breast cancer is less common among men than women the fact remains that it is a very real diagnosis that carries with it a stigma born of a lack of knowledge.
According to the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute some factors that increase the risk of male breast cancer include:
Exposure to estrogen - taking estrogen related drugs such as those used for hormone therapy for prostate cancer
Family history of breast cancer - having several female relatives who have had breast cancer, especially those who have an alteration of the BRCA2 gene
Klinefelter's Syndrome - a genetic disorder in men that produces lower levels of androgens and higher levels of estrogens
Liver disease - certain conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, can reduce male hormones and increase estrogen
Obesity - fat cells convert androgens into estrogen
Radiation exposure - radiation treatments such as those used to treat cancers in the chest
Testicular disease or surgery - inflamed testicles (orchitis) or surgery to remove a testicle (orchiectomy)
Those who are diagnosed at an early stage the better the prognosis. Unfortunately many men delay seeing their doctors even if they notice a lump or other unusual symptom because of the misconception that breast cancer is only found in women. The more advanced the cancer, no matter the gender, the more difficult it is to treat.
Some of the more common signs that occur, and which should prompt you to make an appointment are:
A painless lump or thickening of your breast tissue
Dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling of the skin of the breast
Discharge from your nipple, or your nipple retraction
The treatments for breast cancer are the same for both men and women (chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and hormone therapy), as are the holistic services available.
Organizations and centers that provide integrative therapies and complementary services for cancer patients do not make a distinction between male and female or one type of cancer over another. Their services are available to all cancer patients. So don't be afraid to take advantage of what is offered. Book an appointment for an onology massage, attend a yoga class, take part in a meditation session, or sign up for an art or music therapy program. In central New England these services are available through PinkHippy.org, the Zakim Center, and the Simonds-Hurd Center.
The one difference for men that have been diagnosed with breast cancer is the lack of local support groups and resources. Here is a list of sites specifically dedicated to male breast cancer support and awareness.
• www.checkthem.org / Bret Miller 1T Foundation
• 'Men Have Breasts Too' documentary / https://vimeo.com/129526034
• www.malebreastcancer.org / www.johnwnickfoundation.org