Pink Doesn't Stand for Woman: Men's Breast Cancer is Real
Look for the Signs
Breast cancer is an indiscriminate killer, biased not by sex, creed, or origin. While women are favored by the deadly affliction, men stand at risk of becoming victims at a growing rate. The simple fact that most men only attribute breast cancer to the fairer sex leads them to ignore obvious symptoms that would cause concern for a woman. With survival rates low and the speed of mortality increased, breast cancer in men needs to be more publicized.
The procrastination that men are famous for when it comes to seeing doctors must end here. When gone unchecked, the cancer spreads to different areas of the body, tumors grow to unmanageable sizes and complexity1, making it impossible to isolate the affected cells or remove the tumors without risk to the patient. It is this complete disregard for the symptoms, most likely a result of ignorance regarding the risks of breast cancer, that is responsible for the low survival rates in men and the reason women tend to live two years longer than men once diagnosed.
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It is estimated that 1 in every 1,000 men will develop breast cancer during their lives. That is compared to a staggering 1 in 8 for women. While these numbers belie the severity of breast cancer rates in men compared to those of women, the threat to the male population is very real. Prostate cancer remains the number one cancer for men and occurs at a rate of 1 in 6. Along with heart disease and unintentional injury, cancer is the greatest threat to the modern man. While cancer may not be prevented wholesale, many elements are proven to reduce the risk of both heart disease and cancer formation. In some way, each of the leading killers of men each year are treatable conditions. Men must wake up to the facts, get checked out like anyone else when there are questions relating to changes in the body.
Three large factors can lead to an increased risk of cancer forming in the tissue of a man's breast:
- A history of breast cancer in the family among women or men.
- Having a disease that produces a high level of estrogen such as cirrhosis, or a genetic predisposition to estrogen overproduction thanks to an extra X chromosome in the DNA. (Klinefelter Syndrome - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001420/ )
- Exposure to harmful levels of radiation.2
Self-exams and Symptoms
Understanding your body is the first step in performing regular exams and identifying abnormalities. It sounds silly but get a feel for the way your breasts feel and look, because a physical and visual inspection are key tools in breast cancer prevention for men and women. It won't seem so silly if you find something, and the earlier the better.
The Technique -
The physical inspection will involve both sides of the body and should be performed with patience and concentration. There is no reason to rush through these techniques as they are designed to provide accurate data when performed correctly.
1. Extend the right hand above the head and place in on the back of the neck. This will open the right side breast and make it accessible by the left hand.
2. Using the index, middle, and ring fingers as a probe, begin at the outer area of the breast and work inwards, moving the fingers in a slow circular motion. The idea of the initial exams is to familiarize you with the feel of the breast under normal circumstances. Recognizing anomalies and lumps is much easier when you know what should and should not be present. Inspect the nipple by applying slight pressure around the area and look for discharges, swelling, or an inwards pulling of the nipple.
3. The final aspect of a men's breast self-exam is the visual inspection. Stand before a mirror with the appropriate amount of light and examine each breast individually and as a pair. The objective is to look for any unusual differences in shape and size, or to find irregular protrusions. Again, understanding the body thoroughly is vital to identifying changes before they become life-threatening.3
If any of these signs are apparent it is wise to consult a doctor for further testing. Nothing should be passed off as insignificant because fast action is the key to saving your life. Lumps should be treated with priority and urgency. While there is no need to go panicking off to the ER, an appointment with your doctor should be high on your priority list.
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