New Delhi: According to the World Health Organisation, by the end of 2020, there will be 7.8 million women living with breast cancer globally. Breast cancer in men is unheard of and is frequently underreported because it is regarded as a “woman’s disease.” Not only does it affect men physically, but breast cancer in men also leads to emotional distress due to the stigma attached to the disease.
“Breast cancer is considered to be an exclusive disease of females, and so patients often ignore male breast cancer. It can also be confused with gynecomastia (male breast enlargement), leading to a delay in diagnosis. Such factors, combined with cancer underreporting in India, resulting in a gross underestimation of male breast cancer load in our country,” Dr Deepak Jha, Chief-Breast Surgery and senior consultant, Surgical Oncologist, Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon, told The Sunday Guardian.
Explaining the reasons for several underreported cases, Dr Meenu Walia, senior director-Medical Oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj, added, “The reasons for underreporting are primarily due to unawareness and stigma. When men are diagnosed, their masculinity is often questioned, so the stigma and inhibition increase manifold.”
Currently, there has been no specific official record on the number of male breast cancer cases. Despite the fact that men account for one out of every 10 breast cancer cases, 73% of men go undiagnosed for cancer symptoms. Most of the cases are diagnosed between 60-70 years, but the cases and symptoms can occur early too. “The incidence of breast cancer in men is almost 1%; therefore, the awareness level is very bleak. Breast tissue in men isn’t well developed, making it a rudimentary organ. However, because of the hormonal environment of the breast tissue in men, the chances of cancer are lower, but there has been a slow surge of cases over the last decade,” Dr Meghal Sanghavi, a breast cancer surgeon at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central, told this paper.
Dr Rohan Khandelwal, an oncologist at the Breast Center at the CK Birla Hospital in Gurugram, added, “Until now, the awareness wasn›t there, so the patients weren›t coming forward. As more doctors share their findings, awareness is gradually growing, and male patients, at least in major cities, are not hesitant.”
Experts have also spoken about several stigmas related to this. Dr Saphalta Baghmar, a medical oncologist from Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, told this paper, “For instance, men with breast cancer are less masculine, treatment of male breast cancer is different from female are some common stigma.” Dr Baghmar clarified that the treatment is no different as the procedure includes breast cancer surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.
Male breast cancer is caused by a variety of factors, including age, genetic mutation, family history of breast cancer, men who have had radiation therapy to their chests or drugs containing estrogen that was previously used to treat prostate cancer, liver disease, overweight and obesity, and so on.
Though India doesn’t have a structured screening program for breast cancer in women, due to increasing awareness, many women have been coming forward. Speaking about encouraging men for breast cancer check-ups, as men frequently disregard symptoms even when they appear, Dr Anagha Zope, the program lead for breast oncoplastic surgery at Apollo CBCC cancer care, Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad, said, “Self-discovery lumps are a primary form of detection among men with breast cancer, and advocating self-breast examination will be a better form of screening. Clinical breast examinations during annual health check-ups should be offered to all men.”