Why men often delay going to the doctor for breast cancer

Every year, breast cancer is found in about 700 men. Most of the time, the tumor isn’t found until it’s too late. There isn’t enough early detection.

Every year, about 700 men and 70,000 women in Germany get breast cancer. Men have a lower chance of living because cancer is found later in them. Most men get breast cancer in their second half of life. If a man’s mother or aunt has already gotten sick, he should talk to a doctor and get tested for cancer mutations. Like women, men produce the hormone estrogen. That makes sense. However, having a higher level of estrogen or benign breast enlargement (gynecomastia), which can result from being overweight or taking certain medications, are risk factors for breast cancer. 

Many seek medical attention too late

Professor Michael Untch at the Helios Clinic in Berlin explains that a tumor grows in the mammary glands, which are also found in men. When men use soap in the shower, they often notice the cancer, which can spread to the lymph nodes nearby. Professor Tanja Fehm at the University of Düsseldorf encourages men to seek help from gynecologists and places that treat breast cancer.

Studies have not included male patients in breast cancer care, and there is no way to know if knowledge can be easily passed from woman to man. However, if the cancer is found at the same stage, men and women have similar chances of survival.

Schrag, Matthias. “Brustkrebs Bei Männern: Warum Sie Oft Spät Zum Arzt Gehen.” Apotheken Umschau, 10 Mar. 2023, http://www.apotheken-umschau.de/krankheiten-symptome/krebs/brustkrebs-bei-maennern-warum-maenner-oft-spaet-zum-arzt-gehen-947517.html.

Men have less glandular tissue than women, so the entire breast is removed during a mastectomy. Breast-conserving surgery is only possible if the tumor is very small. Women usually get the diagnosis earlier if they regularly take part in early detection.

Following the operation, additional therapies will be needed.

The most important idea is that chemotherapy, anti-hormonal therapy, and irradiation are all ways to reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer. Chemotherapy is recommended in about a third of cases, while anti-hormonal therapy and irradiation are also given.

A pang in the chest

Olaf Michel, a 67-year-old photojournalist from Ettenheim near Freiburg, was diagnosed with breast cancer three days after feeling itchy on his right breast. He immediately went to the gynecologist and noticed the women’s looks in the waiting room. He went through the typical stages of breast cancer treatment, including diagnosis, surgery, and follow-up care. This is why there are only three weeks between diagnosis and surgery.

Exhausting chemotherapy

The radiologist took an X-ray of his chest on the same day to find the tumor. A mammogram involves squeezing and irradiating the breast like a woman’s. Michel says, “I asked the radiologist, ‘Is that possible with men?'” “Of course, some women have even smaller breasts,” she said. Once the disease is found, the treatment is the same as it is for women. A piece of tissue is taken. This lets doctors find out if the tumor is good or bad and how fast it is growing.

He had a tumor removed from his right breast, and after surviving the operation, he went on vacation to the North Sea. He tolerated the first treatment well, but then he got circulatory problems, skin peeling off, fingernails flaking off, and lost 14 kilos in a short time. His mouth was inflamed and he couldn’t eat solid food, so he stopped the chemotherapy.

Regular check-ups necessary

Michel is still taking in a lot of air. Since the diagnosis, nine months have passed. He is still calm. During the follow-up exam, everything looked fine. Now, he’s going to the Black Forest to get better. He says, “It could have gone in a very different direction.” In addition to the checkups, he will take a medicine to stop estrogen from working for the next five years. He’s not looking for sympathy; he just wants his old life back. And most of all, he wants to share his story with other men.


Author: DoctorMaryam.org

4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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