October is breast cancer awareness month. Billboards, TV ads and magazines are flooded with pink ribbons encouraging women to be screened for breast cancer. But each year over 2500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and most will not even realize that is a diagnosis they could receive.
The truth is that all people are born with breast tissue. Although men do not develop more breast tissue after puberty, the original tissue is still there…mammary glands, milk ducts and all. Risk factors for male breast cancer include older age, family history of breast cancer, genetics and prior radiation to the chest. Male breast cancers are often found by noticing a lump, skin or nipple changes just like in women. Due to lack of awareness, men often avoid going to the doctor for these changes early on when the cancer is easiest to treat.
If breast cancer is suspected, your doctor will order a mammogram, ultrasound or other form of diagnostic imaging with a biopsy if needed. If a cancer diagnosis is made, the extent of cancer is determined and then a treatment plan will be decided upon by you and your doctor. Breast cancer is often treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy or a combination of these.
It is important for men to realize their risk of breast cancer and perform self breast exams to check for lumps or breast changes. They should not be ashamed or embarrassed to talk with their doctor about changes. It just may save their life. Encourage the men in your life to know their risk factors and perform monthly exams.