Military Connection: Breast Cancer Awareness: By Debbie Gregory

Breast Cancer AwarenessOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many Americans support the month-long event, displaying pink ribbons and pink accessories, donating money, walking, jogging and running for a cure. Many people also participate in programs offered by professional sports organizations, retail stores and restaurant chains that advocate for breast cancer awareness.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, would like to provide some information on breast cancer that Veterans may not be aware of. Women are well aware of the need to self-examine for breast cancer, early and often. But men should know that they can get breast cancer as well.

Men have breasts and milk ducts, which is where most male breast cancer originates. The most common form of breast cancer in males is a form of the disease called invasive ductal carcinoma. This cancer makes up nearly 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Men should be aware that while breast cancer is still rare among males (less than 1% of the population), the statistics for men being diagnosed with breast cancer has risen by more than 25% over the last three decades. The main problem is the lack of awareness that men need to conduct self-checks for lumps and abnormalities. Since most men aren’t aware that males can be diagnosed with breast cancer, they don’t know that they need to check.

Men can also be tested for the risk factors of breast cancer. Both men and women can be tested for mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. But again, men are less likely to get tested.

It is important for men to conduct self-checks as a method of early detection. Due to the fact that men have a small amount of breast tissue, most men who have breast cancer (that hasn’t spread to other parts of the body) end up having a mastectomy. This is where the patient’s entire breast is removed, instead of proceeding with a lumpectomy, where just the cancerous lump is removed.

There are side effects that come with breast cancer treatment that can be troubling. Hormone treatments for both men and women with breast cancer include inserting varying amounts of estrogen and progesterone into their bodies. Men who undergo this type of treatment have experienced occurrences of hot flashes, which can lead to emotional distress.

Both men and women need to be aware that with early detection, the survival rate is 98%.  Early detection relies on monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.

At least once a month, it is recommended to check your breasts for any unusual changes in feel or appearance. For more details about signs and symptoms of breast cancer and how to conduct a self-check, please visit

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Military Connection: Breast Cancer Awareness: By Debbie Gregory