Breast cancer: most men are not aware of their own risks

Breast cancer: are men the forgotten victims?

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It is estimated that 2,360 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the US this year, and around 430 men will die from the disease. A 2010 study found that 80% of men surveyed were not aware that men could even develop breast cancer, and the majority could not identify any symptoms of male breast cancer other than a lump in the breast.

2010 Study abstract

This article reports on the findings of a qualitative study that explored the awareness and knowledge of male breast cancer among English-speaking men. The primary goal was to elicit information to guide both clinical practice and the development of gender-specific educational interventions.

Interviews with 28 adult men, all of whom had no history of breast cancer themselves but had at least one maternal blood relative with the disease, were conducted and analyzed, using qualitative methods, to describe participants’ awareness of male breast cancer, their knowledge of the disease, and how they thought awareness of male breast cancer could be increased in health care providers and the lay public.

Nearly 80% of participants weren’t aware that men can get breast cancer; and although all were at higher risk given their positive family history, all reported that their providers had never discussed the disease with them. A majority couldn’t identify any symptoms other than a lump in the breast. About 43% voiced concerns that a diagnosis of breast cancer would cause them to question their masculinity. Participants also suggested ways that men, as well as providers and the lay public, could be better made aware of and educated about their risk for this disease.

This study provides much-needed insight into men’s awareness and knowledge of male breast cancer. While further research with larger samples is needed, these findings offer a starting point for the development of evidence-based, gender-specific, health promotion and disease prevention interventions for men.

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