In 2010, there was nary a word written, much less spoken, about men’s breast cancer. There are no local support groups, specified days of awareness, no literature on websites, or conversations amongst friends. So when Bronx native Michael Singer received his diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy, he felt like a freak.

“I told my wife not to tell anyone,” Singer recalls. “I thought there must be something wrong with me, and I spent over a year in the closet, so to speak.” About a year after his surgery, he saw a Katie Couric special about men’s breast cancer featuring Richard Roundtree, the actor from Shaft. Singer was transfixed listening to this “cool, crime-fighting action dude” speaking about his own breast cancer experience. The report encouraged viewers to contact The Male Breast Cancer Coalition for more information. Singer obliged and was subsequently invited by the organization to participate in a NYC event, which began his lifelong mission to advocate for other men with breast cancer. “I knew I had to get out there and talk about it,” says Singer. “Nobody should go through this alone or feel like a freak the way I did.”

Since then, Singer has spoken at hundreds of events and symposiums, on social media, radio and TV shows, and on government panels. He’s been interviewed for newspapers and magazines, participated in training and peer reviews, flown across the country for numerous organizations, and sat amongst doctors and scientists evaluating research. Every time he speaks about men’s breast cancer and shares his story, he feels a heavy burden lifting off his shoulders; his secret is out.

What are the facts?

  • Men have breasts, too. Although they have a smaller amount of breast tissue than women, the potential for cancer to develop in men still exists.
  • Less than one percent of all breast cancer diagnosis’ are in men.
  • Studies have shown that some of the common genetic features of breast cancer in women are distinctly different than those in men.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, 2,710 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 530 will die from it this year alone.
  • There are many different types of breast cancer in men, including in situ (cancers that have not spread) and invasive (cancers that have spread into the surrounding breast tissue)
  • The most common signs to look for are painless or tender lumps, thickening in the chest or underarm area, changes in the nipple shape, or nipple discharge and bleeding.
  • Not all lumps mean that there is cancer; many are benign.

What are some of the risk factors?

  • Family history and inherited gene mutations
  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Heavy drinking
  • Liver disease
  • Testicular conditions
  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation treatments
  • Klinefelter syndrome

What are ways I can lower my risk?

What kinds of treatments are available for men’s breast cancer?

Standard treatments include:

  • Surgery, such as mastectomy, lumpectomy, and lymph node removal
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy, which uses medications to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth

In addition to these current standard treatments, clinical trials and research studies are also available to cancer patients in the hopes of obtaining information on ways to help improve current treatments or discover new ones. Patients who participate in the studies can help improve the way cancer patients in the future receive treatments. These clinical trials can help scientists develop ideas and open doors to new discoveries. The FDA now requires breast cancer research to include men or to justify why they are not adding men to the studies. “Men just want to be included at the table,” states Singer.

What needs to change?

  • Because breast cancer is seen as a disease affecting women, many men tend to shy away from reporting lumps or even going to the doctor and getting screened.
  • Most treatments, drugs, and pharmaceutical research for men’s breast cancer are still primarily based on women’s treatments.
  • Genetic testing for men diagnosed with breast cancer is still optional, not mandatory.
  • Some insurance companies are fighting claims by men saying the treatments or drugs are just for women.
  • Mammogram centers rarely have changing areas for men.
  • Many medical forms address only women, with questions such as: when was your last menstrual cycle, how many pregnancies have you had, are you breastfeeding?

Where can I find support?

According to a study in the American Journal of Men’s Health, male patients with breast cancer experience psychosocial burdens such as emasculation because of the feminization of the disease. But as male breast cancer gains publicity, more resources have become available, and accordingly, there is more support. Most breast cancer organizations that targeted solely women now include information for men.

Some inclusive support networks are:

Maintaining a positive attitude, staying active, cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and living each day to the fullest can increase the chance of survival and make the process a little bit easier. In this advanced age of medical care, there is continued hope for new therapies, drugs, research, and access to treatments. Plus, the information and support for men is growing strong. Singer encourages other men to have a good outlook and praises the medical and advocacy communities. “The passion of the people who are trying to find a cure, or do their little piece for breast cancer research, is just amazing. We’ve come a long way since I was diagnosed. I’d love to see breast cancer turn into a genderless disease.”

Honor Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week, October 17-23, 2022 by wearing blue with your pink ribbon.






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