About 2,600 men per year are diagnosed with breast cancer. This amounts to just 1 percent of breast cancer victims, but the number is high regardless—especially to those who don’t realize that men can get breast cancer at all.
In a new report on NPR, Patti Neighmond interviews Oliver Bogler, a 46-year-old cancer biologist at University of Texas-Houston, who—even with all of his cancer expertise—ignored a lump in his chest for 3-4 months because he (like most male breast cancer victims) assumed it was nothing. After finally visiting a doctor, Bogler was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
In the following months, Bogler went through chemotherapy, radiation, hormone suppression, and a mastectomy. During that time, he found that the resources and support systems available to men were near nonexistent. (He’s since started Entering a World of Pink, a blog to document his experience and provide support for others.)
One issue faced by male breast cancer victims, both men with the disease and researchers say, is the “gender misfit.” Treatment facilities are designed with women in mind, which not only means pinkwashing, but also—in a reverse of the norm—that male treatment options haven’t been fully explored.
The lack of awareness, even among doctors, [UT] oncologist [Dr. Sharon Giordano] says, means less money for needed research to figure out how breast cancer in men differs from women especially when it comes to life saving treatment. Treatments for men are based on evidence from research trials with women. Giordano’s now heading up research to better understand the biology of the disease in men and to try to figure out the most effective hormone therapy for men with breast cancer.
Men are often not even told about reconstructive surgery options, something they might be interested in.
A lot of male patients would probably be interested in having nipple reconstructive surgery, Giordano says, “So when they are out swimming, or playing basketball and have their shirt off, the surgical changes aren’t quite so obvious.”
A 2012 study published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology found that the survival rate for men diagnosed with early breast cancer—74 percent—was nearly 10 percent less than the survival rate for women (83 percent). Researchers largely believe that this is because men don’t think they can get breast cancer and wait longer for treatment.
Also important to note: Like women, men can inherit genetic mutations that put them more at risk for breast cancer. You would know all about this if you read the NPR article or, alternately, watched the episode of Vanderpump Rules where Jax finds a lump in his chest.
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