When you think of breast cancer, chances are you think of menopausal women. While we’ve already addressed the fact that there needs to be a focus on younger women, as well, since they too can be at risk for cancer, another demographic that is completely ignored even during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is men.
While men don’t have breasts as a woman does, there is still breast tissue under those hard (or not so hard) pecs. And where there is breast tissue, there can be breast cancer. This is an issue that is all but forgotten in our focus on women. Yes, women are far, far more likely to be affected, but a huge percentage of men never consider the fact that they could be victims of what is seen mainly as a woman’s disease.
All this changed recently when Peter Criss, ex-drummer of the band KISS, came forward recently with details of his battle against breast cancer. We’re used to tidbits on celebrity breast cancer popping up occasionally in the news, but breast cancer in a guy, and a famous one at that, should really have caused a bit more of a stir than it did. Though, if you start digging, you’ll find that there are several news stories on men who have dealt with breast cancer, not in their wives, but in their own bodies.
Peter Criss came forward with his story because he knew it would make the media. He may be an ex band member, but he’s still well known to rockers and according to this news story, Criss feels that he should let his macho fans know that breast cancer isn’t just a female disease.
While the Kiss founding member might be one of the most famous men to share his story, he’s not alone.
Recently, Mark Partrain shared his struggle with male breast cancer, as well, along with 22 other men on a CNN special. The special ran at the end of September, just in time for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Other male survivors have been interviewed by news sites, as well, as part of their stories on breast cancer. Still, it’s not a well known fact that men can and do suffer from this disease.
Fewer than 1% of breast cancer cases are in men, but that small percentage still accounts for approximately 1,900 males diagnosed with the disease and of those, nearly a quarter will die from it. The reason for the high lethality? Most men don’t think to check with their doctor when they find an odd lump in their chest. Men tend to avoid doctors more than women and be “tough”. In this case, being tough could mean ending up dead. Men aren’t encouraged to have breast cancer screening procedures, so it’s important that men report any oddities to their doctor. In Criss’ case, doctors assumed his painful lump, noticed at the gym, was merely a nodule. Fortunately for him, they realized it was cancer in time to treat it. Others aren’t so lucky.
In 1991, John W. Nick, a man from Long Island, NY, died. He had been to doctors various times over an 8 year period and none of them recognized his symptoms as breast cancer. When they did discover it, it was too late and despite treatments, Nick passed away. His family established a foundation in his name to help other men with this cancer and to educate the world about male breast cancer.