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By Taylor Wren
The month of October as we know it is also referred to as ‘Pink October’ because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While we see pink everywhere we go to remind us of it, do we really talk about it?
In 1985, October was coined as Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries. It was intended to help encourage women to get regular mammograms but what do we do for men? Yes, breast cancer is pretty rare in men, as only 1 out of 833 men receive that tragic diagnosis. Men might not get mammograms but do you know the signs and symptoms? The risk factors that could put you at a higher risk as a man?
■ Account to cancer.org, possible symptoms that men should be aware of are:
■ A lump or swelling which is often but, not always, painless.
■ Skin dimpling or puckering.
■ Nipple retraction or turning inward.
■ Redness or scaling of the nipple or skin on the breast.
■ Discharge from the nipple.
The three most common types of breast cancer in both men and women are the same, invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma, and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is actually the most common of them all. In 2021 alone it was estimated that 2,560 men would develop breast cancer.
There are several risk factors and it is important to understand them, especially since men are not routinely screened for the disease and most are not even aware they can develop it. A few of those factors are:
■ Getting older, this is the biggest factor of them all. The risk increases with age, the average age for me to be diagnosed is 68.
■ Genetic mutations, such as inherited abnormal BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are at a higher risk. The approximate lifetime risk of developing breast cancer with these genes are 2% with BRCA 1 and 13% with BRCA 2.
■ Family history can also increase the risk, especially if other men in the family have developed it before.
■ Radiation treatment therapy to the chest.
■ Hormone treatment therapy, drugs that contain any estrogen increase your risk.
■ Liver disease, it usually lowers the levels of androgen (male hormone) and raises the level of estrogen (female hormone).
■ Being overweight or obsese
■ Certain conditions that affect the testicle such as: injury, swelling or surgery to remove.
■ Klinefelter syndrome which is a rare genetic condition where a male has an extra X chromosome causing higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens.
You can always reduce your risk by talking to your doctor, which is really recommended for people who have had symptoms or family members that have had breast, ovarian cancer or members that are known to have BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes (genetic testing may then be recommended).
I asked six male friends and family members of various ages the five simple yes/no questions listed below to see their knowledge about breast cancer for men. At least half did not even know men could develop breast cancer. Feel free to question and educate the men of your life about this topic.
1. Do you know the symptoms of breast cancer for men? Two out of six answered yes.
2. Have you ever heard of the BRCA gene mutation? One out of six answered yes.
3. Do you know the risk factors for men that lead to a higher risk of developing breast cancer? Zero out of six answered yes.
4. Did you know that 1 out of 833 men develop breast cancer? Zero out of six answered yes.
5. Did you know that the most common types of breast cancer for men are the same most common types of breast cancer for women? Zero out of six answered yes.