Saturday, April 10, 2010

News from Male Breast Cancer Awareness Front

Clinic denies man breast cancer screening because he's not a woman

BY Rosemary Black


A man whose parents both had breast cancer and who developed the same worrisome symptoms as his dad was denied a mammogram at a local health clinic - because he’s a man, according to ABC

Scott Cunningham a 45-year-old Marion, NC, resident, delayed going to the doctor for months because he had no health insurance after getting laid off from his job. When his symptoms worsened, he called the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District’s National Breast and Cervical Center Early Detection Program, which is funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It serves women between 40 and 60, reports ABC

The program, which offers breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income, uninsured women, turned him down.

“I didn’t know what to do at first,” Cunningham told ABC. “I was stunned and confused. Breast cancer used to be just a woman’s cancer, but now it’s well known men are susceptible.”

Breast cancer, 100 times less common in men than women, according to the CDC, tends to be more deadly in men. Some 440 of the 2,000 men who came down with breast cancer in the US last year will die from the disease. Of the 240,000 women who get breast cancer this year, about 40,000 will die.  Breast cancer can occur at any age, though it’s more common as one grows older . Early diagnosis is key in men as well as women.

Men tend to delay seeing a doctor, so many male breast cancers aren’t diagnosed until they are well advanced.

Symptoms can include changes in the skin or nipple or a thickening or painless lump in the breast tissue.

Among the high profile men who’ve had breast cancer, according to, are US Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachussets; Peter Criss, a drummer in the 1970s Band Kiss and actor Richard Roundtree, who starred in the 1971 movie “Shaft.”

In Cunningham’s case, a clinical nursing supervisor at the Rutherford-Park Healthcare Fund said federal funds for breast screening are just for  women, but that efforts were underway to help Cunningham get a referral for health care.

The divorced dad of an 11-year-old son, who’s living with his parents now that he’s lost his job, said, “I try not to get it get me down.”

One of the risks of getting breast cancer is having a family history, according to the CDC. Male breast cancer has a strong genetic link, Dr. David Axelrod director of the breast program at NYU’s Clinical Caner Center told ABC News.

“The telling factor  [in Cunningham’s case]  is that his father had breast cancer, and that is the number one signal for us to be suspicious,” Axelrod said. “I suspect the dad had a genetic predisposition and was carrying a [gene] mutation that increases risk for male cancer.”

Axelrod, though she’s an advocate for raising public awareness of male breast cancer, isn’t critical of the CDC’s policy of screening women only.

“It’s designed for women, because only 1% of all breast cancers occur in men,” she told ABCNews. “They have to address what is common and it’s not common for men. They could use the same equipment, but there are no screening guidelines for men.”

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