For and about Cancer Survivors in Second Life, and for anyone who has been touched by cancer

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Men can get breast cancer too!

Although it is 100 times more common in women, there are 1990 new male breast cancers diagnosed in the USA alone each year and male breast cancer accounts for approximately 450 deaths per year in the USA - said Dr Ren Stonecutter, speaking at the American Cancer Society in Second Life today. Male breast cancer is on the increase and has grown by around 26% in the past 25 years, he said. And unfortunately it is often only detected after it has reached an advanced stage.

There are a number of factors which put men at increased risk, said Dr Stonecutter, including Jewish ancestry, previous (benign) breast disease, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts), hormonal imbalances, alcohol, celibacy, and a history of liver or testicular disease. He recommended that men protect their 'family jewels' when playing sports or other dangerous activities as injury is another risk factor. And he pointed out that genetic factors are also important - men with a positive family history of breast cancer have an increased risk of 15-20%.

He recommended that men at increased risk should check their breasts regularly or have their significant others do it for them, just like their sisters and mothers, and that men diagnosed with male breast cancer should have genetic testing and counseling for their family members. But all men who find a lump should take note, he said, as the majority of men who are diagnosed have no identifiable risk factors.

Male breast cancer usually presents itself as a small, painless mass just under the areola (the brown area around the nipple), he said. The first step on finding a lump is to get a mammogram. And "when in doubt, TAKE IT OUT!". Male breast cancer is so rare that many local community oncologists will see only one or two cases in their entire careers, so he recommended that men with advanced breast cancer should go for treatment to the big cancer centers or universities, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering, or the National Cancer Institute.

Dr Stonecutter is a regular speaker in Second Life and a real life family physician.