Something suspicious has been identified. Probably you felt it and found it due to some pain or irritation or although unlikely, because you’re aware of Male Breast Cancer and you have been performing a self breast exam ! You see your general doctor who recommends a mammogram and possibly a breast ultrasound. YEP! There’s something suspicious there! Now what?!
First you have to work past the mental and emotional stages. You are a male, you do have breast, and you may have breast cancer which is something you thought only a female had to concern them-self with. When you went for your mammogram you realized the first stigmatism of this diagnosis. Filling out the questionnaire that ask; At what age did you begin menstruation? When was your last period? Are you in menopause? Is there a chance you could be pregnant? And let’s not forget the diagram of the female breast to show where the problem area is!
Next a biopsy is performed which says yes, there are cancerous cells. Now you and your doctor “together” have decided what is your next step. When a woman has a lumpectomy performed, usually a small amount of tissue can be removed in order to get “all” of the cancer cells along with clean margins. The problem is men do not have as much breast tissue.
When puberty hits around the ages of 13-14 is when changes begin to take place in the breast of boys and girls. Up until this stage, both have ducts (tiny tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple), nipples, areolas and stroma (fatty tissue and connective tissue that surrounds the ducts, lobules, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels). After puberty, what changes is women’s breast develop lobules which are the milk producing glands and have continued growth of the ducts and stroma. Boys hormones from the testicles suppress the growth of breast tissue although they still have ducts but hardly if any lobules.
Due to the limited amount of tissue in the male’s breast, when a lumpectomy is performed, the amount of tissue needed to be removed is almost total to the amount in the breast. At this point, a full mastectomy (the surgical removal of one or both breast) is performed which includes the removal of the nipple area. Although this may not be as traumatic visually as it is to a female, it is emotionally just as difficult!
Men can choose to have re-constructive surgery following the mastectomy but is often not the case since there is no “bra or bathing suit top to fill”. However, taking off their shirt on the beach, in a locker room, or in the bedroom, can often be disturbing.
The most important thing to remember here, is the more we learn and the more awareness there is regarding Male Breast Cancer , the more society will accept and understand. We have learned to accept and include all people who are “different” than ourselves; a physical handicap, emotionally challenged, different skin colors, gay or political opposites. Every day we are introduced to something new and different. Let’s work together to look beyond what we see on the outside and remember inside is a person like all individuals who carries with them their own baggage. No matter the gender, a diagnosis or concern of Breast Cancer can be difficult to deal with and compassion is important.