Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breast Cancer is Not Just for Women

My grandmother always bugged my dad for grandchildren, telling him to get married soon so she could have babies around to spoil. But when he was a junior in college she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Forget about waiting until you get married,” she told him. “Just have some kids so I can have grandchildren.” Back when this happened in 1972, the most prevalent “cure” was a radical mastectomy, and so she underwent this treatment, along with other therapies. Fortunately, it worked for her, and she went on to live for another 30 years. All I knew when I was little was that my grandma was special and wore a pad in one side of her bathing suit; to me it was perfectly normal.

These days, there’s a lot more breast cancer awareness out there. Especially in October, otherwise known as Breast Cancer Awareness month, you’ll see a lot of people wearing pink ribbons or pink clothing as a show of support. But breast cancer is not just a women’s disease--did you know men can get breast cancer, too?

Breast cancer in men is rare but increases with age; most cases are diagnosed when a man is between 60-70 years old. Although male breast cancer has similar risks to female breast cancer, it’s usually detected at a later stage and so it can be harder to treat. You see a lot of information out there urging women to do self-exams and have awareness of any changes in their breasts, but for men it’s not something they’re likely to think of, despite changes to their breast tissue. And since men generally have smaller amounts of breast tissue than women, any lumps or bumps may be harder to feel, and may spread more quickly to other types of tissue.

The symptoms of breast cancer in both men and women are similar:

-A change in how the breast or nipple feels or looks, such as:
-A lump
-Changes in the shape and size of the breast, whether swelling or shrinking, especially if only one side is effected
-Changes in skin texture, such as the skin becoming scaly, red or having pitting/dimpling
-The nipple becoming inverted
-Nipple discharge, especially if it is clear or bloody.

Just keep in mind that even if you have some of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. But it’s definitely time to see your doctor for a check-up!

And even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, it’s still wise to do the proper screenings, such as self-tests and mammograms. My husband is always happy to help me do my self-tests! It’s very easy to do, and doesn’t take long. The National Breast Cancer Institute has some great instructions here:

If you’re over 40, make sure to get a mammogram every one to two years as recommended by your health care provider. If you’re under 40, but your family has a history of breast cancer, speak to your doctor about how often you should get checked out.

Knowledge is power and can save your life! Did you know that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? Over 220,000 will be diagnosed this year alone. But when breast cancer is caught early, the five year survival rate is 98%. So do your exams, get your mammograms and most of all, stay safe and healthy!

And remember, we’re always here and happy to help at Impact Urgent Care.

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