October is breast cancer awareness month. Every October, we are reminded that many people “<3 boobies” and to “Save the Ta-Tas.” Despite so much effort being put towards raising awareness about this disease, however, one key piece of information is often swept aside: Breast cancer is not solely a women’s disease.
It is an indisputable fact that women are more commonly afflicted with breast cancer than men. Roughly one in every hundred men are afflicted, versus approximately one out of every eight women. While men tend not to have visible breasts, they do have breast tissue – this is nothing to be ashamed of or concerned about; it’s just part of being a mammal. While severity and aggressiveness of breast cancer are not likely to differ along gender lines, men with breast cancer seem to be more likely to die from the disease. It is highly likely that this is primarily due to delay in diagnosis. Men are not frequently taught what signs and symptoms to look for, so they are less likely to react appropriately to signs and less likely to contact their physicians.
Signs of breast cancer in men are not all that different from signs in women. Such signs may include:
A lump or thickening of the tissue in the breast area, usually painless
Changes to the skin covering the breast tissue, such as reddening, scaling, puckering, or dimpling (think a similar feeling to the skin of an orange)
Changes in appearance of the nipple, such as becoming red and/or scaly, or inversion, in which the nipple points into the body instead of out
Discharge from the nipple, which may be clear or bloody
The internet is full of tips for women to complete self breast examinations. These exact same procedures may be used by men. The exams may be a little time-consuming, but may just save a life. There are three major steps in self-exams: mirror exam, lying down exam, and standing or sitting. More detail on these forms of self-exams may be found in our recent article entitled “Self Breast Exams Save Lives.” These exams should be performed once a month. Early diagnosis is key for treating all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. If you notice anything abnormal during a self breast exam, regardless of your gender, contact your doctor as soon as possible.