SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The hidden victims: 2,000 men have breast cancer
Scripps Howard News Service


November 23, 2009
Monday PM

While health care pundits debate over when women should have mammograms, 2,000 men diagnosed with breast cancer this year are in the shadows.

One of them is Marshall Anderson, 52, who works as a medical technologist with Texas Oncology in North Carolina. He takes care of parents all day, but never imagined that he would be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Anderson, diagnosed in November 2004, knows better. At first, though, he thought the red, raised area looked more like a bug bite than anything else.

Former KISS drummer Peter Criss has struggled with -- and apparently defeated -- breast cancer. Lying in bed one night in 2007, Criss felt something strange: a small lump on his left breast.

"I thought, 'It's a nodule, I'm a guy, I don't think it's anything more than that,' " he said. "The more I messed with it, the bigger it got and the more it hurt, and that started really scaring me."

Criss went to the doctor, underwent some tests and a surgical procedure to remove the lump. A week later, the doctor called. It was breast cancer.

The good news was that Criss had caught the disease at its earliest stage. After a second surgery to remove it in March 2008, he would not need chemotherapy, radiation or medication.

Men account for only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, but about 2,000 men develop it each year, and 440 die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Anderson found out that his situation wasn't unique, and eventually he found out that more men actually die of breast cancer than they do testicular cancer because "we don't get it taken care of."

In Anderson's case, he never imagined he would be one of those statistics. "My wife and I have a little farm outside of town, and we live out in the country," he said. "So I didn't think anything about it."

But Anderson noticed a spot began to get bigger and more sore and uncomfortable, and antibiotics didn't seem to be doing the trick.

Finally, his family doctor drained the area and decided things didn't look right.

"Sure enough, it came back malignant, and I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer," he said. "So that's where my battle started."

His reaction to the news was perhaps understandable.

"I was shocked, I was mad," he said. "Even though I knew guys could have breast cancer, at the time I was in my late-40s and I was going, 'now wait a minute, this can't happen to me'."

The key to treatment, though, is the earliest possible detection, he said.

He received 12 weeks of chemotherapy and had surgery to remove the tumor, which turned out to be larger than anticipated. After that, he had more chemotherapy and then radiation.

"All that took about a year," he said.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009 about 1,910 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in the United States.

While breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women, according to the ACS, it does happen. The risk is about one in every 1,000 men, according to the ACS Web site. About 440 men will die from breast cancer in the United States.

Suzanne Starr, education services manager with Hendrick Health System's cancer center in North Carolina, said it is important for men to be aware and to seek help if needed.

During puberty, Starr said, hormones in girls develop ducts in the mammary glands for breast feeding. While male hormones restrict that, "men still have breast tissue, and it is in that that cancer can develop," she said.

The majority of breast cancers occur in men in their 60s and 70s, but some occur much earlier, she said.

If there's good news, Starr said, it's that detection can be easier for a man because there is not enough tissue. Symptoms include a lump or swelling of the breast, new irregularities (redness, scaliness or puckering) of the nipple and nipple discharge, she said.

"Anytime a guy notices a discharge or a redness or a swelling that just won't go away, get it looked at," Anderson said, speaking from his own experience.

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