By: Crystal Russo, Coy Editor & Contributing Writer
October is breast cancer awareness month- a great time to learn more about this disease and its effects on women and men.
2014 Estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer in the U.S:
- New cases: 232,670 (female); 2,360 (male)
- Deaths: 40,000 (female); 430 (male)
What is breast cancer? A breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that may invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs mainly in women, but men can get it, too. Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer.
Breast cancer occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.
Like all cells of the body, a man’s breast duct cells can undergo cancerous changes. But breast cancer is less common in men because their breast duct cells are less developed than those of women and because they normally have lower levels of female hormones that affect the growth of breast cells. The most common way of self-identifying breast cancer is as a hard or painful chest lump, commonly the size of a bead or a marble.
Richard Roundtree, who portrayed John Shaft in the 1971 Shaft movie, is a male survivor of breast cancer. In an interview with ABC News, Roundtree says, “Not talking about my cancer was really tough, and now that I do talk about it all the time, it’s really become a backhanded blessing. I was getting on a plane recently and a flight attendant ran up to me and said, ‘You saved my husband’s life.’ Her husband had a lump in his chest and only agreed to get it checked out after she showed him an article (about Roundtree). Her husband had caught it early, which probably did save his life.”
Comedian Wanda Sykes was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in 2011. Even though DCIS is a non-invasive form of breast cancer, Sykes decided to have a bilateral mastectomy in order to eliminate her chances of getting breast cancer.
Award winning actress Ruby Dee has been a breast cancer survivor for over thirty years. Besides fighting cancer Dee is also a civil rights advocate. She is a member of Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Surgery is the most common initial treatment for breast cancer, and chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy are also administered. Breast cancer can also be classified based on proteins on or in the cancer cells, into groups like hormone receptor-positive and triple-negative.
As a part of prevention, along with regular self-checks and discussions with your primary care physician, family history is important to share, because people with a higher genetic risk for developing breast and other cancers should be more vigilant about breast self-exams and getting regular mammograms. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations put family members at a higher risk of breast cancer in men and women, in addition to pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Breast cancer is a serious illness which may be prevented or treated successfully when caught early. Do yourself a favor and check yourself today!
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