On March 9th 2016, I presented the first ever poster entitled “Understanding and Eliminating the Stigmatisms and Myths Associated with Male Breast Cancer” in the Advocacy Session at the 10th annual European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Up until the early 1980’s, many of the male breast cancer (MBC) patients that were diagnosed with inoperable or metastatic cancer often underwent removal of their testicles in order to prevent further growth of the tumor (20% of male body estrogen is produced in the testicles). Identification of the “estrogen receptor” (80-90% of MBC patients) combined with the increased use of tamoxifen after surgery and often radiation treatment, this medication eliminated this treatment option. MBC incidence data, prognosis and treatment options, myths about MBC, difficulties encountered by patients and survivors during their treatment and recovery are presented.
From a survivors point of view, although the disease is rare, it is important for clinicians and survivors to work together to promote and increase MBC awareness.
Table 1: MBC Incidence
* 2011 study over the last 40 years (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Singapore and Sweden)
Treatment, Prognosis & Survival Rates
The incidence of MBC is low but not negligible (Table 1). When diagnosed with the same type and grade of tumor at the same stage, the prognosis for men are similar to that for women. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for men is not as good as for women because, more often than not, MBC is diagnosed at a later, more advanced stage. Consequently, the overall 5 year survival rate for men diagnosed with breast cancer is about 74% compared to about 83% for women1.
MBC Myths & Stigmatism
- Breast Cancer is a disease that only affects women
- Many men diagnosed with breast cancer feel they are abnormal, have done something wrong and struggle to overcome the fear they will die from a woman’s disease
- Many MBC patients had their testicles removed in order to prevent further growth of the tumor
- One definite reason why men did not want to talk aboutMBC
- 1 http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20120517
Difficulties Experienced by MBC Patients
- Lack of information results in many men not knowing enough to notice changes in their breast or to be willing to seek medical advice
- The diagnosis of MBC is often delayed
- MBC is often misdiagnosed
- Lack of support for MBC patients and survivors
- Many MBC patients have their masculinity challenged by diagnosis of a “female disease” and being treated with female treatments in female surroundings
Ways You Can Help MBC Patients
- Promote MBC awareness in order to increase early detection so men are aware of what to look for
- Ensure them they are not “freaks of nature” and almost 80% will survive to lead normal, productive lives
- Protect their masculinity as much as possible
- Increase research studies to determine the differences between male and female breast cancer and how the treatments may differ
- Increase exposure to MBC by incorporating MBC sessions at prominent breast cancer conferences and symposia
Support for Men in Their MBC Journey
- Website information and support – A Man’s Pink
- Promote MBC Awareness video on UTube
- Promote Male Breast Cancer – Taking Control – an excellent reference book for men diagnosed withbreast cancer by Prof John Boyages