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Breast Cancer in Men: The Warning Signs

Breast Cancer in Men: The Warning Signs
By C.J. Clemmons

Breast cancer is traditionally thought of as an exclusively
female-related disease. But like breast cancer in women, breast
cancer in men is the uncontrolled growth of the cells of the
breast tissue.

Breast cancer in men can be just as dangerous as breast cancer
in women. More than 1,700 men are diagnosed with male breast
cancer each year. But because men often wait to report the
symptoms of male breast cancer, the disease is more likely to
have spread, leaving many men with less hope that treatment will
lead to recovery.

Breast cancer in men accounts for approximately one percent of
cases of breast cancer and about 0.2 percent of all malignancies
in men, according to The National Cancer Institute. In women,
breast cancer represents 26 percent of all cancers. However, all
of the types of breast cancer seen in women can also occur in
men, although some are quite rare.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that breast cancer in
men results in approximately 480 deaths in men compared to more
than 40,000 women who die of breast cancer each year.

The survival rate for men is lower than for women. Men have
very little breast tissue and do not typically receive

Also, men are not taught to do regular breast self-examination.
No one knows the exact cause of breast cancer, but risk factors
include age, family history of breast cancer, changes in the
appearance of the breast and race. Breast cancer is diagnosed
more often in White women than Latina, Asian and African
American women.

Since breast cancer is 100 times more common among women, the
general public does not hear much about breast cancer in men.
Many people are unaware that men can develop breast cancer, and
neither individual men themselves nor their physicians regularly
examine men's breasts.

Furthermore, when men discover signs of breast cancer, they
tend to delay before seeing a physician. This is the main reason
why medical researchers have a hard time studying breast cancer
in men and the effect it has on the male population. Men do not
believe they are susceptible to the disease.

For instance, actor Richard Roundtree, the man who personified
masculinity in the iconoclastic blaxploitaion film Shaft,
discovered a lump in his right breast in the 1970s. It was

"When I got the news, I was shocked," said Roundtree, who has
worked with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation which
raises breast cancer awareness among women and men, as well as
funds for research. "I thought I couldn't possibly have breast
cancer. Men don’t get this,” Roundtree once said in a USA Today
interview. The actor was fortunate to catch his cancer early and
received chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and a mastectomy.

Another celebrity to have had male breast cancer is Peter
Criss, a founding member of the rock band KISS, who calls
himself “the luckiest man in the planet.” Criss said getting
medical treatment early at the first sign of trouble saved his

“While some men feel embarrassed because of ‘this macho crap,’”
Criss said surviving breast cancer was actually a blessing. He
was treated before the tumor could spread and said he speaks out
about breast cancer in men during National Breast Cancer
Awareness month every October to raise the profile of this rare

Criss, who played drums for KISS and was known as "Catman,"
offered this advice to men who spot lumps in their breast:
“Don't sit around playing Mr. Tough Guy. Don't say 'It's going
to go away.' It might not and you might not see life anymore and
how beautiful that is."

Most cases of breast cancer in men are detected in men between
the ages of 60 and 70, although the condition can develop in men
of any age. A man's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is
about one-tenth of one percent, or one in 1,000.

However, men with breast cancer show the same racial
disparities in survival as do women with the disease, according
to a study conducted at Columbia University. Medicare-age
African American men with breast cancer were three times more
likely to die from the disease than White men. These findings
parallel those of previous studies among women, which have shown
higher breast cancer mortality rates for African American women
at all ages, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal
of Clinical Oncology.

Racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes between African
American and White women have been reduced to access to health
care, and other socioeconomic factors. Similar factors may
contribute to the poor outcomes observed among African American
men with breast cancer.

Among the findings related to African American men, the
researchers reported that they were more likely to have
later-stage disease and larger tumors than White men; African
American men were 48 percent less likely to be referred to a
medical oncologist and 56 percent less likely to receive
chemotherapy than White men, though neither difference was
significant. Five-year survival was about 90 percent among White
patients but 66 percent among African American patients.

On the basis of the findings, the researchers concluded that
part of the racial disparity in survival may be due to
differences in treatment. Under treatment may account for the
racial disparity in breast cancer survival among men.

Medical researchers have said further studies will be needed to
explain clinical and biological factors contributing to racial
disparities in male breast cancer. Because breast cancer in men
is rare at less than one percent of cancers in men, obtaining
large sample sizes has been a challenge. Most previous studies
have been small, single center, retrospective series.

Early signs, however, indicate that the disease is more
manageable and has higher successful treatable rates than when
found in women. In many ways, the disease appears similarly in
both sexes.
Symptoms of breast cancer

A painless lump, usually discovered by the patient himself, is
by far the most common first symptom of breast cancer in men.
Typically, the lump appears right beneath the breast, where
breast tissue is concentrated.

A lump, however, is seldom the only symptom. Men are more
likely than women to have nipple discharge (sometimes bloody)
and signs of local spreading, including nipple retraction,
fixation to the skin or the underlying tissues, and skin

To improve the prognosis of breast cancer in men, broader
efforts are needed to let men know that the disease exists and
that, like other cancers, it can be cured or controlled if it is
diagnosed and treated promptly.

Risk factors attributed to breast cancer.

- Age
The incidence of breast cancer in men, like in women, increases
with age. The average age of men at diagnosis is close to 65,
about five years older than the average age for women.

- Ethnicity
Breast cancer affects 14 African American men and eight White
men in every million. Some studies also suggest that the
prevalence is higher among Jewish males.

- Geography
In Egypt, breast cancer in men represents six percent of all
breast cancers, and in Zambia, it accounts for 15 percent. It
has been suggested that one contributing factor might be an
excess of estrogen produced by parasites. Others have proposed a
link with liver disease caused by malnutrition.

- Socioeconomic Status
A recent study comparing male breast cancer patients from five
metropolitan areas with men of comparable backgrounds who did
not have breast cancer, found that the breast cancer patients
were more likely to be college graduates and employed as
professionals or managers.

- Heredity
Several researchers have reported two or more cases of breast
cancer in men within a single family. Several of these reports
have involved two brothers; one involved three brothers; and
another described breast cancer in a man, his father and his

- Hormones
Abnormal hormonal activity, a factor that has been linked to
the development of female breast cancer, could play a role in
the development of male breast cancer as well. Several disorders
with a hormonal component have been associated with an increased
risk of male breast cancer, and numerous studies suggest that
men with breast cancer display abnormal patterns of hormone
metabolism and excretion.

- Treatment
The treatment for male breast cancer is generally similar to
the treatment of female breast cancer. The basic therapy for
cancer that shows no signs of distant spreading is surgery. In
advanced stages, it is hormonal and chemotherapy. The small
number of men who develop breast cancer makes it unlikely that
large prospective trials can ever be undertaken to compare
various therapies. It is possible, nonetheless, that
institutions that see more than the usual number of cases could
collaborate in developing a fund of reliable information. In the
meantime, it is important that individual physicians and
surgeons keep careful records to document the cases of the
several hundred men who develop breast cancer each year in the

About the Author: C.J. Clemmons is a writer for
http://www.regalmag.com, an online magazine dedicated to issues
affecting African American men. Visit
http://www.regalmag.com/classifieds/ to view Local Online
Classifieds & Job Classified Black Business Directory. To read
more about breast cancer in men visit

Source: http://www.isnare.com

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