Hidden in the Pink — The Story of Male Breast Cancer
During Breast Cancer Awareness month, there is a group of breast cancer patients who are being overlooked. Even the awareness pink is almost secluding this population. So what is the deal with men with breast cancer?
Though the cases are rare, they are out there. Men are being diagnosed with breast cancer all over the United States every year.
What people do not realize is that men have some of the same chest contents. The American Cancer Society explains, "Until puberty (usually around 13 or 14), young boys and girls have a small amount of breast tissue consisting of a few ducts located under the nipple and areola (area around the nipple). " They continue to explain that after puberty the girls begin to grow more of the system for future breast feeding. Though, "Like all cells of the body, a man's breast duct cells can undergo cancerous changes. But breast cancer is less common in men because their breast duct cells are less developed than those of women..." There are many components that can add up to breast cancer for men.
There is quite a list of risk factors. Here is a list that MayoClinic.com has gathered:
1. Age: Men between "60 and 70 years"
2. Estrogen: "Estrogen drugs may also be used in hormone therapy for prostate cancer."
3. Family History: If close members of your family have suffered from breast cancer.
4. Klinefelter's Syndrome: "Klinefelter's syndrome causes abnormal development of the testicles. As a result, men with this syndrome produce lower levels of certain male hormones (androgens) and more female hormones (estrogens)."
5. Liver Disease: Male hormones for liver disease suffers may lessen letting female hormones increase.
6. Weight: "Obesity may be a risk factor for breast cancer in men because it increases the number of fat cells in the body. Fat cells convert androgens into estrogen, which may increase the amount of estrogen in your body.."
7. Exposure to Radiation: Radiation treatments around the chest area could lead to breast cancer in men later in life.
As the website for the Komen for the Cure describes, these factors aline perfectly to allow "... one percent of breast cancers in the United States occur in men." Though one percent seems like a low number, the actual numbers may scare you. Komen suspects that in the year 2012 there will be about 2,100 new cases of male breast cancer. Of those twenty-one hundred, over 400 will die from the cancer.
It seems sad that so many men are not mentioned in any of the massive awareness efforts for breast cancer. Yes, there is documentation on the internet. How many breast cancer awareness websites, advertisements, or even merchandise show male survivors? I have been searching the internet for any mention on a large scale and been unsuccessful. I am by no means trying to steal any of the female breast cancer suffers "thunder." It is a terrible disease and is affecting more and more people each year.
I am trying to increase the awareness for men. We all need to be know that the disease could affect a man close to us. If you are a man, you need to educate yourself with the symptoms and try to prevent or catch the disease the disease early.
Being aware of male beast cancer can even their female relatives. On the Out of the Shadow of Pink website one woman tells her own story of she and her father's struggle with breast cancer. "My father died of breast CA in 1982; I am a breast CA survivor." She continues by saying that she may not have known about her own chances of getting breast cancer without her father's experience. Males that develop breast cancer have a higher chance of having a close family member with the same disease. Reporter Phil Salisbury for the Wicked Local Sharon reveals that a genetic link has been made for families that are at a higher risk of breast cancer. "BRCA-2, a genetic protein linked to breast cancer."
Mike Selsman is a man that carries this genetic protein, and it was one of the causes of his bout with breast cancer. As Salisbury writes, "At first, the Sharon resident wrote off the lump." He did not realize that what he thought was nothing would grow into a life changing experience. It has given him the awareness to have his sister, wife, and children tested. This disease he, like many others, could not affect him personally hit hard.
Selsman and many other men are left out of the spotlight for breast cancer. But, things are beginning to change. In fact, just recently the governor of Massachuesetts signed a bill naming the third week of Breast Cancer Awareness in the state to be dedicated to men with the ailment. Governor Patrick decided this to be an important move after learning the fact that, "Men rarely get breast cancer, but those who do often don’t survive as long as women, mainly because they don’t even realize they can get it." CBS Boston explained this as well as, "some doctors are in the dark, too, dismissing symptoms that would be an automatic red flag in women." The governor is hoping by making this statement to have a Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week, more men will be remembered and recognized along side their female counterparts.
There is no need to change the Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbons, but there should be a nod to the men that are battling along with all of the women of this disease. Awareness, knowledge, and screenings are the only chance to lessen the intensity of breast cancer. I hope that now everyone will be a little more safe from this horrible disease.
For all, man or woman, that are affected by breast cancer, know that you are not alone . Even after this month has past, your stories and experience are important.