We’re almost done with the month of October, the cancer awareness month, with a lot of emphasis put on breast cancer. Much has been said about this specific cancer, with enough reminders to our sisters to do a self-exam on them twinnies or attend the free screenings. While this is of utmost importance, one aspect of breast cancer remains grossly overlooked. The fact that this cancer can affect men too. Yes, you read that right. Breast cancer isn’t a gender specific disease. It can get anyone, of course more in women, but men need to be aware that it can get them too. After all, they too have some breast tissue albeit small.

Breast cancer in men is more common in the advanced ages, above 60 to be specific. However, like my consultant surgeon always says, anything is possible in medicine. It wouldn’t be a wonder to get it in a younger man.
Often times, the risk factors are similar to those in women. The biggest being genetics; a history of breast cancer in the relatives. Others include radiation exposure and hormonal treatment (excess of estrogen). Obesity has also been identified as a risk factor as well as liver disease. So, dear men, let’s hit the gym and cut down on the alcohol, okay? You might get the adored abs while at it, win-win.

Because men are ignorant of the fact that they can get breast cancer, the disease tends to go unnoticed for long. Also, men are less hypochondriacs than women, they tend to delay going to hospital even when they notice something is off. Hence diagnosis is made when it’s a little too late and the cancer has spread, making the prognosis grim.

The symptoms tend to be very similar to women. You might notice a lump on your breast. The lump is usually hard, painless and fixed. It could also present as a thickening, dimpling or reddening of the skin overlying the breast. There might be bleeding from the nipple or a sore around the nipple. It is also helpful to check the armpits for any swelling (swollen lymph nodes).

If you notice any of these changes please pay your doctor a visit. The sooner the better. Tests done are similar to those for women, including biopsies to ascertain if the lump is truly cancerous. Depending on the results the doctor can then advice on the best treatment options. This includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Studies have shown that breast cancer in men responds much better to hormonal therapy than in women. Remember, the outcome of treatment is highly dependent on how early the cancer is diagnosed. Hence it’s of utmost importance that you go to hospital as soon as you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.

It is my hope that men will gain a little more interest in their breasts and look out for these alarm signs. Ladies, the next time you’re lying on his chest, check out for some of these things too, alright? And I hope that everyone by now has done a self-breast examination or attended a screening camp.

We need to be vigilant about our health.
Enjoy the remaining days of October folks, and of course share this information with your loved ones, enemies even.
Blessings and good health,

Our gratitude goes to our great Daktari Joan for educating us on cancer. Check out her other post on breast cancer  here.