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Breast cancer: Men can get it, too

While women across the country are getting the word out about breast cancer awareness, those working in the field have a separate educational message for men about the disease.

The American Cancer Society is encouraging men to ask their doctors about their risk for developing breast cancer.

“Male breast cancer is a fairly rare cancer,” said Elissa McCrary, regional marketing and communications director for the American Cancer Society. “Only about 2,000 men a year are affected nationwide.”

Roughly 1,970 men in the U.S., will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, compared with 230,480 new cases of breast cancer in women, said McCrary. She acknowledged that most men don’t consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer, but maintained that the risk is “very real.”

McCrary said, although family history of breast cancer has been proven to be linked to a woman’s risk for the disease, no such connection has been definitively proven for men. She said men should inform their doctors, during annual physicals, if they detect anything out of the ordinary in their chest area.

“If you’ve noticed something, and you haven’t called a doctor before then, mention it to them,” said McCrary. “The men that I have talked to, who have been diagnosed, felt a lump, or what feels to them to be abnormal in their chest that they feel they need to ask their doctor about. It’s just like anything else. You need to know pretty quickly, and the earlier you catch it, the better off you’ll be.”

Susan Hoffman, the executive director of Henry County Cancer Services, said her organization has not yet assisted any men with breast cancer.

Still, Hoffman said male breast cancer “can be just as dangerous as breast cancer in women,” and that men should take steps to protect themselves.

“One in 1,000 men, compared to one in eight women, will face breast cancer at some point,” said Hoffman. “Self-examinations are the key to detection. Other symptoms may include inversion of the nipple, bleeding from the nipple and a lump in the breast tissue.”

McCrary added that treatment options for men facing breast cancer are similar to those for women, depending on how far the cancer has spread. Those options, she said, include surgery and chemotherapy.

For more information, visit www.cancer.org.