Contrary to established public opinion that breast cancer is a purely female disease, it is not true. Men are at risk of breast cancer too as they have also breast tissue. This type of cancer occurs rarely in men (1 percent of all cases of breast cancer in the U.S., but in fact it means that 400 men might die because of this disease annually in the U.S.). Breast cancer in men is rare, but it is more aggressive and much more dangerous as usually it is revealed at later stages. And there are few reasons for that.
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Dangerous because rarely checked
“Breast cancer in men? It cannot be”, this is certainly a widespread public opinion. Preventive medical check-up in men includes tests for prostate or intestinal cancer, but not breast cancer. And even when a man has been diagnosed with breast cancer, he might feel ashamed to have a ‘woman’s disease’ and is afraid to share his feelings with family and friends.
When a man is attentive enough to his body and notices any changes in the breast, the first step is usually to visit a family doctor. But most doctors are just not experienced enough to treat breast cancer in men in appropriate way and prescribe ineffective treatments. And in most cases men do not immediately think that there are specialized centers to treat breast cancer in patients of both sexes. Thus, two biggest threats are ineffective treatment and the loss of time.
What are symptoms?
That’s why it is so important to be aware of the symptoms and raise awareness that breast cancer has no gender and might affect both sexes.
Warning signs and main symptoms of breast cancer in men:
- A lump or a tight knot in the breast or underarm area
- Breast skin is reddish
- Breast’s size or shape changes
- A nipple is itchy or sore
- Blood discharge from a nipple (occurs rarely)
How to treat breast cancer in men?
Due to the small size of male breast tissue, in the vast majority of cases breast cancer in men is treated by mastectomy, which means removal of the entire breast affected by cancer. Frequently it is combined with hormone or targeted therapy. If the disease affects the lymph nodes, then chemotherapy and radiation is prescribed, same as in women’s treatment. Breast cancer in men, however, is more aggressive, as it is often recognized only at a late stage, and when the cancer has already spread, therapy is much more difficult and less effective.
Psychological support and raising awareness
Due to the awareness raising activities of non-profit organizations, such as The Male Breast Cancer Coalition in the U.S. (MBCC), more attention is paid to this disease nowadays to give a public voice to breast cancer in men. It is very important to convey a message to the society that this disease, still predominantly known as a purely female type of cancer, has no gender and can affect both sexes. MBCC activists disseminate information about breast cancer in men, share real stories and create documentaries where they encourage men not to be ashamed of this problem, notice any changes in the breast, and at any signs or suspicions immediately go to a doctor.