Male breast cancer

I need to come clean and admit a woeful ignorance. I didn't know that men get breast cancer.

There, I've said it, but I'm willing to believe there are many more people like myself who thought breast cancer only affected women.

References to breast cancer and breast cancer research are everywhere, and all of them pink. Now it's breast cancer awareness month. Fundraising all over the western world by women wearing their pink ribbons will raise millions for breast cancer research, all of it for the female version.

I've know about the imbalance between female and male cancer research for a long while. In the USA, 190,000 men get prostate cancer each year compared to 205,000 cases of female breast cancer. The American Government spent 11 billion dollars on breast cancer research last year, while prostate cancer research topped only 2 billion. This is purely government funding and does not include public donations.

My sister used to regularly join in the Race for Life until a couple of years ago her husband wanted to go along. They asked if he could join in the race with her, get donations and dress up as a woman. They said no. The race for life is for women only. My sister never bothered again after hearing that.

The inequality of breast cancer / prostate cancer research is quite well documented, the fact that men also get breast cancer, albeit in much smaller numbers, is not. A good old Google search revealed very little on the issue.

October has become the month traditionally associated with the pink ribbon to raise awareness of breast cancer in women. But now there are calls to tinge that pink with blue.

New research for the widely-regarded website healthtalkonline.org shows that men with breast cancer suffer avoidable isolation and embarrassment because of the wide-spread belief that only women get the disease.
I can well imagine they do. How do you think you would feel having a disease that only women get. As a man you would be excluded from joining the 'Race for Life' and raising money for breast cancer, even though you were suffering from it yourself.

That's why some people are now trying to change the general perception of breast cancer since the pink ribbon brigade have successfully stolen all the limelight.

Professor Kate Hunt, of the Medical Research Council's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said that the pinking of breast cancer has become the universal sign of support for breast cancer research in October. Professor Hunt, who led the research for healthtalkonline, said that while that was understandable 'some blue in those pink bows' would remind everyone, including clinicians, that men get breast cancer too.
Breast cancer in men is rare, but because it is virtually unheard of, it can go undiagnosed for a lot longer, making the survival rate considerably low. There is also a lack of adequate treatment because funding for breast cancer drugs is set aside for women only.

It is still relatively rare. About 350 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year compared with about 48,000 women. But research shows that men tend to be diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer, at older ages and that they have lower survival rates. Indeed, although men are seven times more likely to develop testicular cancer every year, the death rate from breast cancer is the same.
The lack of understanding in the medical profession about male breast cancer, also leads to poor treatment and unnecessary embarrassment.

The men who have agreed to their interviews being put online talk about issues such as being called 'Mrs' by the hospital, or being put in a pink dressing gown.
One said: "It was quite funny in the chemist because I was put on Tamoxifen. When I was in the chemist the young lady sidled up to me and whispered 'are you sure this is for you?"

Male breast cancer,  which is rare, is generally overlooked. In 2009 the male breast cancer advocacy groups Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man's Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men joined together to globally establish the third week of October as "Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week"

We are approaching that third week now. Don't forget the men.

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