If you think this disease affects only women, you’re wrong…
Yes, women have breasts, and we know they get breast cancer. But, men also fall prey to it. It might be rare, so it’s important to be aware.
This post is to address the pink and blue world of breast cancer. Breast cancer might be very common in women but the rise in breast cancer in men can’t be denied.
About one percent of breast cancer develops in males. It is estimated that about 2,140 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States (US) and about 300 in the United Kingdom (UK).The number of annual deaths in the US is about 440.
Oncology surgeon Dr. Ramakant Deshpande says, “In the US, over 2,000 men were affected in 2012. Generally, men with breast cancer have lower survival rates, probably because the disease spreads rapidly due to scanty tissue in the breast area. While 83% women are likely to be alive five years after early-stage diagnosis and treatment, the percentage would be 73% for men.”
The symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those in women. Most male breast cancers (MBC) are diagnosed when a man discovers a lump on his chest. But mostly due to denial, lack of awareness and fearing ridicule, discovery in men turns up late, and this worsens the situation. At that point, cancer spreads.
So it mustn’t surprise you that men carry a higher mortality rate than women do, mainly because awareness among men is less and they can’t assume a lump as breast cancer, and with lesser breast tissues and delay in treatment, the disease spreads fast.
It’s essential to understand the risk factors for MBC, mainly because men do not routinely screen for the disease and don’t think about the possibility that they’ll get it. Hence, breast cancer gets more advanced in men than in women when it is first detected.
A number of factors increase a man’s risk of getting breast cancer:
• Regular consumption of hormonal medicines or herbal supplements.
• Increased weight due to unhealthy food and lifestyle.
• Chronic alcoholism.
• Genetic aberrations like Klinefelter Syndrome which elevate estrogen levels in men. Men with a family history of breast cancer stand high risk as they may inherit either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
Individuals, especially adolescents, undergoing radiation therapy for conditions like Hodgkin’s Disease need to be careful as the odds of developing breast cancer are high.
Besides the above-mentioned reasons, the majority of MBCs happen in men with no family history of breast cancer and no inherited gene abnormality.
A man diagnosed with breast cancer must also consider genetic counseling. If a man tests positive for a defective gene (most commonly either BRCA1 or BRCA2) that could lead to a future diagnosis of breast cancer and his children have a 50% chance of carrying the gene.
• A male child of a man with breast cancer who inherits the defective BRCA2 gene has about 6% chances of developing breast cancer and just about 1% with BRCA1.
• A female child of a man with breast cancer who inherits the defective gene has a risk between 40% and 80% of eventually developing breast cancer.
• Men with a genetic susceptibility to breast cancer are also at higher risk of having prostate cancer at a much younger age than naturally diagnosed.
Often I see posts in social media raising concern about breast cancer in women and creating awareness. It’s a very good initiative but why educate only the women? The men must also know about it, the several trauma associated with it?
It’s the ignorance of both men and women that make a woman feel lowered in self-esteem. Does our self-esteem lies in the breast only? Nope! It doesn’t. The entire society must be educated and made aware about breast cancer and the campaigns must go gender unbiased.
I’m not an expert but concerned about the increasing incidence. With several social media notifications in my feed, I became curious and did some online research and discussed with doctor friends, only to realize that we must create awareness among the men as well, both about the chances of its occurrence in men and to do away with the social stigma associated with the disease. And educate all that breast cancer is not a feminine disease only, but men could also fall prey to it.
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