Not only do males who receive a diagnosis have to deal with the difficulties of breast cancer, these men often struggle with having what is thought of as a women’s disease. While men make up less than one percent of cases of breast cancer, it is important that their needs are acknowledged.
There are several stigmas associated with breast cancer in males, and some of these stigmas may keep men from seeking medical treatment. Many people, both men and women, are unaware that men can even get breast cancer. Dr. Christian Zwick, a surgeon at Quincy Medical Group, states that all men have breast tissue under the nipple, and that it is possible for the breast tissue to change during puberty and at other times during life.
Dr. Zwick hit on an important note when discussing the age that most men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Most men are diagnosed with breast cancer in their 60’s and 70’s, which is a little older than when women are typically affected. Dr. Zwick said that breast cancer may actually begin affecting men at the same age that it typically begins affecting women, but men put off seeking care for awhile.
A survey about male attitudes regarding breast cancer was conducted, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was found that the idea of having breast cancer threatens a man’s masculinity. Some men tend to brush off any health concerns because of the vulnerability it causes them to feel. Breast cancer only amplifies this vulnerability.
Dr. Kumar Abhishek, oncologist at the Bon Secours Cancer Institute agrees that men are typically diagnosed with late stage breast cancer because they have the mindset that the disease is only associated with women, which keeps them from seeking early treatment. Because of the stigma associated with breast cancer, Dr. Abhishek believes that men have not learned the early warning signs while women have. Dr. Abhishek says that there are risk factors for men, which include hormone imbalance, liver disease, alcohol use, and congenital diseases, such as undescended testes.
One young man, Cradale Waller, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 21, is making an effort to raise awareness of male breast cancer. Waller’s diagnosis came during his senior year at Virginia Union University. Waller noticed the right side of his chest was sensitive to touch, and then he found a lump. Waller pressed on the lump, and noticed discharge. This caused him to mention it to his doctor, who diagnosed Waller with early stage breast cancer. Waller’s immediate actions, rather than brushing off his symptoms, led to the early diagnosis.
Waller is raising awareness, especially with males, on his campus. Waller said he is raising awareness, “Because every day is awareness day for me.”
For males diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important that they have a safe space in order to discuss their concerns. Dr. Abhishek recommends that any man who receives a diagnosis of breast cancer undergoes genetic screening in order to receive proper counseling for themselves and their relatives. Dr. Zwick wants men to not fear a diagnosis of breast cancer, “The recurrence rate is very low. The survival rate is very good.”
By Ashley Campbell