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Men too told to be on their guard against breast cancer

Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)


Oct. 21--Male breast cancer patients are diagnosed at a very late stage due to a 'head in the sand' mentality.

Pink Caravan has asked men to be vigilant against breast cancer, a disease commonly thought to affect only women.

During the annual Pink Caravan awareness campaign's result analysis, a 48-year-old Emirati man was found to have malignant breast cancer that had gone undetected for more than six years.

Azam (name changed) was one of the thousands of patients who received free screening and checkup during the pan-UAE trek. After the lump was found in his chest, he was urgently referred for an ultrasound.

A number of tests, including mammogram, biopsy and needle aspiration, were consequently conducted and he was advised to undergo mastectomy.

Continuing its drive to educate the public about the various facets of breast cancer, Pink Caravan, the nationwide breast cancer awareness campaign, is drawing attention to an often-overlooked segment of breast cancer sufferers -- men.

"There is a common misconception that breast cancer is solely a female matter, and even though the majority of breast cancer patients are women, male breast cancer is very real, a fact that was underscored by the identification of a man with breast cancer during this year's Pink Caravan Ride," said Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, Secretary General for Friends of Cancer Patients charitable society (FoCP) and Head of the Pink Caravan's Medical and Awareness Committee.

Dr Al Madhi remarked that there are two major challenges faced in raising awareness about male breast cancer and that these challenges play a major role in exacerbating the impact of the disease on men.

"Firstly, many men simply do not wish to believe that breast cancer could ever affect them, in their minds it is a female problem that does not concern them. Secondly, the social stigma that is often associated with breast cancer grows exponentially when the individual diagnosed is male, which means many male breast cancer patients are only diagnosed at a very late stage due to a 'head in the sand' mentality.

Very often they would rather believe that nothing is wrong than seek treatment that would identify them as breast cancer sufferers," she said.

Azam's case illustrates this last point more clearly. He had, in fact, found a lump in his breast six years prior to his Pink Caravan examination and had visited a number of clinics in Dubai to seek medical advice. In each case it was recommended that a biopsy be performed to ascertain the exact nature of the growth, recommendations that he chose to ignore.

Dr Al Madhi went on to emphasise that it is extremely important that men be aware of the signs of breast cancer and the need to have any suspicious growths in the breast area examined as soon as possible. "Early detection remains the most important weapon at our disposal in the fight against breast cancer, and in cases of male breast cancer it is even more vital.

"Although men have significantly less breast tissue, therefore lowering their chances of developing breast cancer, the downside is that breast tumours in men have a higher tendency to spread to nearby areas, such as the skin covering the breast or the muscles under the breast, therefore increasing the risk of the cancer reaching the metastatic phase," she added.

"In the three years since the first Pink Caravan Ride began, we have conducted a total of over 21,794 breast cancer screenings out of which 5,484 were men. We hope to see the number of men coming forward to be tested continue to increase."


(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

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