We’ve all seen the cute little Breast Cancer awareness ribbons and the little games that are passed around to help show solidarity in support of women’s breast cancer. I used to think it was pretty nifty until someone reminded me that women are not the only ones who are susceptible to this disease. I then began thinking that it wasn’t really fair that half the population should be ignored when referring to this disease, or series of diseases – there are more than one type of breast cancer, even in women.
Perhaps the reason that men are so often forgotten is that not everyone, including many men, realize that breast cancer is not just a female disease. However, statistics show that while the majority of those who contract the disease are indeed women, 1,700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, or about 1% of all known cases; this is actually about 0.2% of all cancers in men. Of these 1,700 men, 480 of them (about 35.5%) will die from the disease.
There are a number of reasons that such a high percentage of men die from the disease, the most common being because it is considered by most to be a purely female form of cancer, and so men could be unaware of having the disease until it’s too late to stop the cancer’s progress. Breast cancer most commonly hits men between 60 and 70 years of age, although it can develop at any age. Another reason is that, because of the small amount of breast tissue in men, they rarely are candidates for mammograms, which is the most common diagnostic method for breast cancer in women.
As a general rule, men have more symptoms when they have the disease, and if you have any of the following, it would be a good idea to contact your doctor immediately. The most common symptom is a painless lump located right below the breast. Other common symptoms that might follow could include: nipple discharge (sometimes bloody), fixation to the skin or underlying tissues and skin ulcerations.
The most common form of breast cancer found in men is Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) while the rarest form is Inflammatory Breast Cancer (Paget Disease).2
There are a number of risk factors that should also be taken into consideration, including age, ethnicity, geographical location, socioeconomic status, heredity and hormones. In fact, it has been suggested that men with breast cancer should have genetic testing done. While this won’t necessarily hinder future generations from contracting cancer or even guarantee that they might, it should be noted that 6% of male children of a male breast cancer sufferer will contract the disease, and that 40%-80% of female children will contract it; 50% of their children will also carry the gene.
Please, if any of you men who read this think you may have any of the symptoms listed above, please go to your doctor. Although a mammogram is not highly feasible, there are sonograms which are a great diagnostic method (and way less painful, believe me ). Take care of your health—it’s precious, to you and your family.
©2014 Mary Purpari