By Rod Ritchie
Although around one percent of new cases diagnosed are males, going through breast cancer treatment affects people regardless of their gender.
Therefore, patient advocates for men with this disease are looking to build and promote a consistent profile and narrative within all cancer groups for breast cancer. The aim is to enable a more balanced perspective for men and support improved health outcomes.
Men’s MBC prognosis
Several years ago, the author, a Stage 3B IBC survivor, and Stage 4 friend, Rob Fincher realized men with breast cancer have a poorer prognosis than women.3
This is because they are more often diagnosed at a later stage. As well, they can be reluctant to present themselves with symptoms because of the stigma. Moreover, their health practitioners commonly do not recognize symptoms early enough.
Bringing about change
Breast cancer charities are almost exclusively fixated on using pink to denote breast cancer. This is fine because women are getting the message. However, the community is largely unaware that males get this disease as well.
It is estimated that this year, 2,360 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the U.S., 350 in the U.K., and 150 in Australia. In some African countries, the rate of male diagnosis is as high as 30 percent of new cases. Worldwide, 20,828 men will die from the disease annually.1
In a 2012 study that assessed more than 13,000 male breast cancers from the U.S. National Cancer Database, men with breast cancer were found to be less likely to survive the disease than women. All we ask of ask breast cancer groups is that they give us a fair go and assist in raising public awareness of the genderless nature of this disease.2
What does the manifesto say?
Like much social change, bringing about a new phase in the treatment of men with breast cancer takes time. Our manifesto is not so much a list of demands, as a plea to those who can alter the status quo to consider equity in treating patients, regardless of their gender:3
Reduce the sexual stereotyping of breast cancer as being an exclusively female disease.
Provide inclusive imagery and de-gendered language across all mediums to acknowledge the disease that exists in men as well as women.
Build a sense of importance and belonging within cancer support groups for male breast cancer patients and their caregivers.
Institute public breast screening programs for BRCA1 and BRCA2 people of all genders.
Provide easy access to relevant up-to-date information for men that is prominently displayed and accessible by all groups.
Institute breast cancer research and development funding to the equivalent of one percent of the total amounts raised.
Include a splash of blue among the pink to promote awareness of male breast cancer.
Set aside a day in October to publicize male breast cancer.
A tireless patient advocate
Sadly, Rob Fincher passed away from breast cancer three years ago. He was a tireless patient advocate and was completely open about his diagnosis and the conundrums of being treated in a world of pink.
He once said, “I wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, if it would have been easier to accept the diagnoses, whether it would have been easier to understand and communicate, and whether my feelings of emasculation would have been different if there had been the slightest mention of males or the slightest blue hue anywhere”.4
Progress is being made
The good news is that charities and government agencies have made strides in their presentation of genderless material in print and digital material in the eight years I’ve worked on this campaign.
Our call on all breast cancer groups to adopt a more inclusive agenda for the promotion of breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and research in men is bearing fruit.
Cancer Today. World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. Available at: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/. Accessed on July 28, 2022.
National Cancer Database. American College of Surgeons. Available at: https://www.facs.org/quality-programs/cancer-programs/national-cancer-database. Accessed on July 28, 2022.
Breast Cancer: Men Get It Too. MBC Manifesto. Available at: https://malebc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/MBCmanifesto6.pdf. Accessed on: July 28, 2022.
Rob Fincher. Male Breast Cancer Happens. Available at:https://malebreastcancerhappens.org/Survivor%20Stories/rob-fincher/. Accessed on: July 28, 2022.
Rod Ritchie is a Sydney-born writer, internet publisher, and breast cancer patient activist, living with breast and prostate cancers. Currently, he’s NED for both. He’s President, Board of Directors, Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance, has a website at MaleBC.org and you can follow him on Twitter @malefitness.
His articles for Health Union can be found here.
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