While October marks the 21st year of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign that has boosted better treatments, and saved lives, men might be astounded to learn that it is possible that even they may be a victim of breast cancer.
In male breast cancer, the prognosis tends to be worse than for women, mainly because of the lack of awareness in both men and doctors, who tend to "slough off" the symptoms: a lump, pain or sensitivity, or a clear or bloody discharge from the nipple. Because of the late diagnosis, between 25-35 % of men with breast cancer die.
Edie Pituskin, a University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing graduate student is conducting what she believes to be the first North American study looking at what men experience after a breast cancer diagnosis--important, considering the different ways men and women cope. Pituskin will be presenting her preliminary findings at the National Conference for Men's Health in Atlanta. Alberta's Cancer Registry identified 125 living men ranging in age from 44 to 85 who have been diagnosed with the disease--she included 20 in her study.
Pituskin, who works at the Cross Cancer Institute as a clinical research nurse for the Northern Alberta Breast Cancer Program found a wide range of reactions to the diagnosis - from those who felt they could tell no-one what they were facing to those who became advocates. With male breast cancer on the rise, Pituskin hopes to raise awareness about the disease and not only encourage men to visit their doctors more often but to highlight the disease to health care professionals who may recognize the illness too late. She also wants to encourage men to participate in breast cancer clinical trials since currently all drug or treatment trials allow only female participants.
It is thus hoped that through education, and with the help of support groups, people will insist on proper testing, diagnosis and treatment, and the medical profession will recognize and respond to their demands.