Matthew Knowles, 67, the father of famed singer Beyoncé, recently announced he was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Many people gasped at the news, not because of the diagnosis itself but because of who was diagnosed – a man. It is well known that discussions of breast cancer often exclude men because the disease mostly affects women. The American Cancer Society estimated that only about 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the U.S. this year, compared to 268,600 new cases in women.
Breast Surgeon Dr. Valerie Gorman is the chief of surgery and medical director of surgical services at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie. In her 15-year career, Gorman says she has treated less than a dozen men with breast cancer and countless women. Even so, she believes men should be included in discussions of early detection and treatment.
Male breast cancer patients “are already at a disadvantage because we haven’t talked about it and let them know that if you feel a knot in your breast, even if you’re a man, you need to get it checked out,” Gorman said.
Doctors often see male patients when the disease has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, thereby putting them at a higher mortality rate than women.
“They’re not getting mammograms,” Gorman explained. “They’re not educated about self breast exams. They don’t really have that education. Men tend to be diagnosed at a higher stage or a more advanced stage because they don’t have those things to catch it earlier.
Early detection is key. If the disease in men is caught at an early stage, “we could treat them and they could be doing really well and live a long, fruitful life,” the chief of surgery said.
People with a family history of breast cancer or an inherited gene mutation may be at risk of developing the disease regardless of gender.
“If your mom is BRCA positive, and you’re a man, you still have a high risk of getting breast cancer so you need to be even more cautious of that and attentive to those things and if your dad has had breast cancer, even if you’re a woman or a man, you’re at risk because that can be passed down,” Gorman emphasized.
BRCA is an abbreviation for BReast CAncer gene. The National Breast Cancer Foundation explains that BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two different genes that impact a person’s chances of developing breast cancer. A BRCA test looks for changes or mutations in the genes that may cause cell damage and lead to cancer. BRCA gene mutations, however, are very rare, affecting only about 0.2 percent of the U.S. population.
Doctors note that most people who develop breast cancer did not inherit a gene mutation nor do they have a family history of the disease.