When you think of breast cancer, the women in your life are probably what first come to mind. Maybe your mom, your aunt, sister, or even yourself.
However, breast cancer is growing among a particular population: men.
"Breast cancer is perceived as a woman's disease, as a woman's cancer,” said Mercy Medical Center Genetic Risk Counselor Lori Doeschot.
Breast cancer accounts for just one percent of all male cancers diagnosed in the United States each year. The risk, just one in 1,000 men. So, why should men be concerned? Lori (DEW skit) Doeschot said some studies show the number of cases is growing.
"The number of male breast cancers has increased in the last 20 years,” she pointed out.
According to the American Cancer Society, 2,300 new cases will be diagnosed in 2014. Four-hundred-thirty of patients will die this year. Breast cancer can and should be found early in men.
"It's easier to be detected because men have less breast tissue, so a lump can be detected earlier,” Doeschot pointed out.
However, men often wait too long to seek treatment.
"From a male's perspective, women have breasts and men have chests,” explained Doeschot.
Doeschot said men who find a lump don't automatically realize that it's breast cancer. The average male breast cancer patient is diagnosed at the age of 68 and often at a later stage than female patients. Immediate treatment can be the difference between life and death.
"Chances for successful treatment are reduced when cancer is diagnosed at a more advanced stage,” she added.
The signs and symptoms are the same in men as they are in women, and so are the risk factors: age, alcohol use, family history. Doeschot says a man is 15-20% more likely to have breast cancer if a close relative, male or female has had it themselves. Obesity may also play a factor.
"Your fat cells convert male hormones to female hormones,” said Doeschot.
"More research dollars are beginning to go toward studying the psychosocial effects of breast cancer in men. Doeschot says male patients often feel embarrassed and stigmatized with this diagnoses, which not only affects how the patient copes but also their recovery. Click on the links to read more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and how to perform your own self breast exam.