‘Is it possible for a man to get breast cancer?’ – A question that keeps nagging at the back of every male victim of this fatal disease. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s take this opportunity to throw light on a rare disease – Male Breast Cancer (MBC). Accounting for only 1% of breast cancer cases around the world, MBC is stigmatised as ‘typical women’s illness.’
It is a major health concern for men, but the problem is ‘ignorance’ and ‘lack of awareness’ among people. Men are not ready to accept the fact that breast cancer is not just a women’s disease. Even men are at the risk of breast cancer!
(Source: Northern Virginia Mag)
How do men get breast cancer?
The simple answer is that men have breasts too. This disease usually occurs in men over 60. Since male and female breast cancers have different biology, they need to be treated differently. If a man is diagnosed with breast cancer, he should speak up and let people know about it.
The cause behind this disease is not known yet, but the possible reasons could be:
1. Family history and genes, for example, inheriting faulty versions of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
2. Previous radiotherapy to the chest area.
3. Increase the level of oestrogen, obesity, Klinefelter syndrome and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).
Recently, singer Beyonce’s father, Mathew Knowles, unveiled that he is battling breast cancer. After noticing recurring dots of blood on his shirt and sheets, he underwent mammography. He confessed, “Of all the things I could get, why would I get this?” He said that he is not much aware and has started ‘looking at the world differently.’
The mortality rate is high among males
As per the cancer diagnosis reports, there is a sex-based disparity in mortality rates.
· Men are experiencing higher mortality across all breast cancer stages.
· The three-year survival rate for men is 86.4%, as compared to 91.7% for women.
There are many factors that can eliminate this disparity, including biological attributes, treatment compliance and lifestyle.
Lack of awareness among people
Since the MBC cases occur less frequently than the female counterpart of the disease, there is a void in interest, research and funding. This is why men prefer to keep it hidden because they are embarrassed to come out and discuss about this disease. This cancer happens to target only one man among millions of men across the globe. They fear that they would face some discrimination if they tell others about the diagnosis. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to proactively educate male patients about the risk of developing breast cancer.
In the Journal of Radiology, it is suggested that screening tests like mammography, ultrasound and genetic testing recommended for women may also be beneficial in detecting male breast cancers. Signs of breast cancer in men include a lump (big or small) in the breast, nipples turning inwards or discharge of fluid from the nipple. “Man or woman, early detection is a lifesaver.”
We have to make people realise that breast cancer may be rare, but it’s there! It requires careful thought and attention. Denial won’t help; spreading awareness and early detection will!