Monday, October 26, 2009

Male Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Most of the focus is on women.  There was a wonderful essay from a male breast cancer patient/survivor.  Here’s the beginning of the essay.  Unfortunately, you need a “subscription” for full access.

I talked with a man recently about my cancer. He had trouble finding words. He didn't know what to say and looked to the ground. The "breast" part of it all made him noticeably uncomfortable.

When I first felt pain, and later a lump, below my left nipple, it didn't sink in that I, a man, could actually have breast cancer. Years from now I may very well be able to count myself as a cancer survivor simply because the tumor in my breast caused pain. (Something very rare, in fact, for both men and women.) The pain, like a pin being driven into my nipple, drove me back to the doctor for a second, then a third time over a four-month period. My unwillingness to accept my physician's assurances that no further tests were warranted may have saved my life. As devastating as it was . . . [Full Text of this Article]

Mr. Wright laments the “pink” color attached to breast cancer:

Breast cancer: The pink disease; a woman's problem; a girlie, nonmasculine thing.

Most of the general public thinks of breast cancer as only a woman’s disease.  This misconception delays diagnosis for the too many.  Men need to be educated that they do in fact have breasts.  They can in fact get breast cancer.  There will be ~2000 men diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the United States. In the U.S., the ratio of female to male breast cancer is approximately 100:1 in whites, but lower (70:1) in blacks. 

The essay brought to my attention the John W. Nick Foundation.  Their website has some great information, resources, and personal stories.  I hope you will check it out and spread the word.

 

REFERENCES

Oh, to Live in an Age When Men Had Breasts . . .; JAMA. 2009;302(14):1511-1512; Scott W. Wright

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a deep undercurrent of sexism in the article, isn't there? There's a sense that being female identified is a problem, because anything to do with femaleness is our (US) culture is pretty much demeaned, belittled, and subject to misogyny.

Can you imagine a disease primarily being identified with men (say, heart disease, traditionally) being "demeaning" to women to get? Heck, even "girlie" in the article is demeaning; do we even have a similar way of demeaning all male children? We have "boyish," with mostly positive connotations, but no "boyie."

(Though we should recognize that "boy" has long been a way of demeaning Black men in US culture.)

(I'm not saying this is your doing, but it strikes me whenever men complain about being identified with anything female. I think we need to recognize and call out sexism when it jumps up and slaps us in the face.)