Health Magazine

The 3rd Week of October

Posted on the 26 September 2015 by Jean Campbell

male breast cancer

Thanks to the Male Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC), the third week of October is now designated as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week, by the governors of 39 states across America!

When Bret Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24, he promised his surgeon that no man would ever feel alone when hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.” After a very close friend’s husband was diagnosed with breast cancer, Cheri Ambrose began her mission to end the stigma and feelings of abandonment associated with a male breast cancer diagnosis.

As a result of a connection made on Facebook, together Bret and Cheri formed The Male Breast Cancer Coalition, MBCC in 2014. They created MBCC to give male breast cancer a face and a voice; support those men diagnosed with breast cancer and their families, and educate the public that men get breast cancer too.

Cheri designed a national awareness campaign that asked the governors of each state in the U.S. to issue a proclamation making the 3rd week in October Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week in their respective states. This year, 39 states have set aside the 3rd week of October to draw attention to the impact that breast cancer has on men diagnosed with this disease.

What do we know about who gets male breast cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society about 2,000+ males each year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S., and 400+ men die of the disease. Many of the men are being diagnosed at later stages of the disease when treatment needs to be more aggressive, and their prognoses are less favorable.

Why are men getting diagnosed at more advanced stages? Most men are not aware they can get breast cancer. Men often do not get annual physicals. Comprehensive breast exams are not a routine part of a male physical, and men don’t get mammograms. Some feel embarrassed at the possibility of having a woman’s disease, and then there is the fear factor. Consequently lumps and thickenings often go unnoticed or unattended until they can be seen or cause pain.

As more men come forward and share their stories, we learn that a number of men carry one of the BRCA mutations for breast cancer, one they can sometimes pass on to their children. We hear how having what is often thought of as a woman’s disease can be a source of embarrassment. We learn that the treatment for male breast cancer is the same as for female breast cancer, but hormone therapy with Tamoxifen seems to be better tolerated in females than in males.

In Their Words

Bret Miller…In April 2003, I was a typical 17-year-old guy. A senior in high school, on the football team, working at the pool and ice rink, everything was cool. There was something a little unusual though. One day I scratched my chest and felt a lump behind my right nipple.  We had no medical insurance at the time, so at a school physical night, I asked two doctors to check out the lump.  Neither doctor was concerned.   All they said was “let’s keep an eye on this…it’s a calcium build up…you’re becoming a man…it will go away.”  Well, that never happened. More

Arnaldo Silva…It has been nearly nine years, but it seems like it was yesterday. I was a 57-year-old healthy and fit father of four working as a Fireman in a New York City public high school.  I remember clearly when the doctor told me “You have breast cancer.” Those words fell on me like a ton of bricks! At first I thought they were meant for somebody else and he was playing a horrible joke on me. My inner voice was asking was the doctor really talking to me? I thought no way, the doctor must be reading the wrong chart, men don’t get breast cancer. That’s a woman’s disease! More

Michael Selsman…When Michael Selsman came home from his morning jog, he noticed a lump on his chest. It was strange, because he’d never seen it before, but he figured it was probably just an irritation. A couple of weeks passed, and the lump grew larger. So Michael made an appointment with his doctor. The results were surprising — stage IV breast cancer. More

Cradale Waller…Why am I a 24-year-old getting a Masters in cytopathology? I always knew I wanted to be a doctor and studied biology as an undergrad at Virginia Union University.

One evening after class, I went to my local ER in Richmond, VA. My right nipple hurt to the touch, was changing color and there was a discharge. I was embarrassed, so went to the ER by myself.  It was my nipple after all. The doctors and nurses examined me and took some samples of the fluid. They told me I needed to be seen by specialists the next day at VCU Massey Cancer Center. I immediately knew something major was about to change my life, but I didn’t know for sure what it was going to be. More

If you or a loved has been diagnosed with male breast cancer, reach out to Male Breast Cancer Coalition. Get the support you need from people who understand. Be part of raising awareness that men get breast cancer too!

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