Every man needs to know that breast cancer is not a woman specific condition. Men can get it too.
The aim of this article is to highlight the stigma attached to this cancer and the devastating psychosexual effects it has on the men. Just as much support as we provide to the women, we need to provide it to the men.Get informed, know what to look out for and raise awareness among your peers to help bring acceptance and understanding to this diagnosis. Let’s all do our bit and spread the word about male breast cancer (MBC).
The 5 facts
- MBC is rare (~1%). However this is on the rise.
- The cause, like any other cancer, is multifactorial ranging from genetic, hormonal, environmental and lifestyle factors.
- There is a possible link between MBC and diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
- No screening is offered to men and prognosis depends on early presentation and accurate clinical diagnosis.
- Painless, hard breast lumps with skin changes and/or discharge is suspicious for cancer and early GP review is recommended.
The 5 problems
- The diagnosis among men is often made when it has spread to lymph nodes due to delayed presentations when compared to women. This may be attributed to poor or delayed recognition of signs and symptoms due to lack of awareness.
- The feminised illness has a great impact on the men’s masculinity. MBC has been contributed to men feeling ashamed, humiliated and less of a man. This has significant consequences on their psychosexual health.
- As for women, surgery such as mastectomy can also have a serious impact on a man’s self-esteem and can result in body image issues.
- The main support that men with MBC receive is from their partner/spouse. Lack of support groups contributes to psychological distress.
- Most information is received from information targeted towards women. Currently there are limited gender-neutral information packs on breast cancer.
- Breast cancer is not gender specific. Statistically speaking it does affect more women than men, however we must not exclude men from the conversations. When we talk about breast cancer we need to start referring and reaching out to men too.
- Reducing the stigma starts with men accepting that breast cancer can affect them too and have open discussions about the condition among their friends. The more we shy away from it, the greater an impact it has on the men who are currently living with breast cancer.
- Greater access to support services/groups is required as well as gender-neutral information/booklets to reduce stigma of MBC and improve psychosexual health.
- A diagnosis of a feminised illness should not be seen as a de-masculinising event but rather an opportunity that would allow men to open up and express their emotions and experiences. It would initiate conversations and send a strong message which would state that a feminised illness does not make any man less of a man.
This is a brief outline of MBC aimed at increasing awareness. If you are interested in finding out more information please visit www.malebreastcancer.org and www.bcna.org.au/about-breast-cancer/breast-cancer-men where you will find the ‘Men get breast cancer too’ booklet and a list of support groups that may be of service to you or someone you know.
My next post will be about the health systems in the developing world and a list of challenges that prohibit access to health care. Until next time.