October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! It’s a time to reinforce the awareness of the disease; from detection to treatment. It is also a time to remember all the people who have been affected It. I love breast cancer awareness months. I applaud their significance. An outstanding aspect of this period though, is the dominance of the colour pink (typically pink ribbons). I love pink and I feel it does justice to everything. However, I believe that the use of pink, kind of gives breast cancer a gendered connotation. It makes it female. Some people don’t actually realise that breast cancer affects men as well, albeit rarely. Personally, I didn’t have any awareness of breast cancer in men till five years ago, when a friend died from it. Last week, I had a discussion with a few people about breast cancer in men. Most of them thought that breast cancer was strictly a female disease (hence the pink, they said). Some said that it must be limited to men from Caucasian backgrounds. A few of them had full awareness of it.
According to Cancer Research UK, about 300 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. A review of Nigerian health information didn’t show any statistics on the prevalence or incidences of breast cancer in men. Importantly, there are no reports anywhere, of breast cancer being gender or race specific. It is however acknowledged that women are mostly affected by it.
Pink with a tinge of Blue
It is worth noting that the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer in men are similar to that of women. Variations exist in the risks and treatment of it. In men, breast cancer develops in the tissue behind the nipples. The commonest symptoms are; a painless hard lump in the breast (Not all lumps are cancerous!); nipples turning inwards (retraction); nipples becoming engorged and sore; swelling of the breasts; and discharge (may be blood stained) from the breast. Other symptoms also include a lump under the arm. (this is not an exhaustive list).
Risks factors as with women include: age – most cases in men are diagnosed between the ages of 60 – 70. On rare occasions, younger men have been diagnosed. Other risk factors are: obesity, high oestrogen levels, family history of breast cancer; exposure to radiation and Klinefelter’s syndrome. Adjusting one’s lifestyle can reduce the risks of cancers, for example reducing alcohol intake.
Sadly outcome for men with breast cancer is not as good as women’s. Research shows that this is because men ‘Don’t’ check their breasts as much as women do. In most cases, the cancer had spread to other parts of the body before a diagnosis is made. Most types of breast cancer are treatable if detected early. So men get checking!!! Lend a voice to the awareness of breast cancer in men. Wear and rock that pink this October. If you’re too macho to wear pink, add a tinge of blue. Much awareness can save many lives.
Dedicated to all men and women who have been affected by breast cancer.
Read John’s story about his experience with breast cancer (courtesy of NHS Choices)
For info credits and much more on breast cancer in men, click here.
Click here for guidelines on how to perform Male Breast Self Examinations