The first thing that needs to be said about male breast cancer is that, yes, it happens. And it happens more often than you think. While cases of breast cancer in men accounts for a mere 1% of all diagnoses worldwide, that’s still a lot of men. However, while women are encouraged to be open about their condition, there remains a huge stigma amongst male breast cancer sufferers which can have serious implications.
A recent news story brought home the difficulties and outright unfairness associated with male breast cancer, when a British man discovered he had been diagnosed with the condition for a third time. He’d already been in the headlines a decade ago when, after his initial diagnosis, his insurance company refused to pay for treatment because there were no provisions within the fine print for male breast cancer.
Sadly, this feeling of male exclusion continues to persist through all facets of breast cancer care. According to certain medical experts, many breast cancer trials either exclude – or don’t even think about – men from participating in the study. So, what’s the difference between breast cancer between the sexes?
Genetics play a major part
While the idea that the family history of cancer plays a part in the diagnosis and prevention of female breast cancer is a fairly recent theory, genetics has always been a crucial factor in male breast cancer. It’s estimated that 90% of all male breast cancer cases are oestrogen-dependent, which – in a group of people with a traditionally low content of oestrogen – means that science has traditionally seen the ailment as a genetic fluke.
However, recent research contends that a poor diet, obesity and high alcohol intake can play a major part in causing the development of male breast cancer.
Little support for male breast cancer patients
While the stigma of breast cancer amongst women has practically evaporated, it appears to be next to impossible for men to rely on a support system – partly because it’s seen as a female ailment, partly because the treatment involves an intake of oestrogen (which brings on fears of their own), and partly because men are naturally slow to ask for help when they need it.
The good news for male sufferers of breast cancer is that treatment options for the disease are virtually the same for men as they are for women, meaning that male sufferers can rely on the decades of research and discoveries that have increased survival rates. The bad news is, due to the reasons outlined above, men tend to discover they have the ailment much later on, reducing their chances for a full recovery.
While breast cancer in men is and will always continue to be an incredibly rare occurrence, the situation is unlikely to change. So, the onus is on men to check for lumps and bumps in the chest area as regularly as they would in other areas. This guide from a male healthcare website may be a help.