Because it is rare, male breast cancer often diagnosed only at late stage

"About 2,240 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in U.S. men a year, compared with about 232,000 cases of invasive cancer among women," writes Laura Hambleton in the Washington Post. "And because male breast cancer is rare, most men with the disease do what Bogler did and ignore the symptoms: lumps in a breast, discharge from a breast or other changes in a breast or nipple." Peter Criss of the rock band KISS is among the male breast cancer patients mentioned in the article. (HT: Aileen Graef)


  1. I lost my grandfather to this for these very reasons. Since that time I have had a mammogram (very awkward with boy boob). I also engage in self examination for lumps with some frequency. 

    1. Although awkward you must get checked.  I had male breast cancer this past year and am scheduling my yearly mammogram in April. 

    2.  My father had to get a mammogram. The doctor looked him up and down and said “I’ve done flatter women.”

  2. Wonder if exposure to xenoestrogens (growth hormones in meat, BPA, phthalates, PCB’s and dioxin are examples) might be increasing the incidence?  Years ago, I heard of male compounding pharmacists who developed breast cancer after handling estrogen powders without gloves, etc…

    1. Not if it’s in breast tissue. (Some) cancers are named for the type of tissue in which they arise, not the location. If a skin cancer metastasizes to your liver, it’s still skin cancer.

  3. I don’t get why anyone would ignore symptoms!  I went to my doc last summer as soon as I noticed a lump.  Turned out to be gynecomastia.  The time between my discovery and the diagnosis was pretty tense for me…

    The mammogram was much…clampier than I was expecting.

    1. I do. Most physical maladies resolve themselves, so ignoring things is not a completely unjustified strategy in most cases, at least at first. At any given moment I have lots of weird things going on in my body that as a layperson I can’t assess; most will go away. Second, going to a doctor is like taking your car to a mechanic; you’re almost guaranteed an expensive, unpleasant process in which extra problems will be found and criticisms delivered, and incorrect bills levied. Third, it’s easy to think “I can tolerate the pain, I can’t possibly be hurt enough to see a doctor.” This line of thinking is what allowed my mother to shut her finger in a car door, fracturing it, but not go to a doctor until months later (and me to do something similar in a different car door, only this time allowing an infection to develop to the point of requiring same day hand surgery — because I was sure it wasn’t broken, why go to a doctor?).

      1. Note I’m not proud of that. I should definitely seek help sooner than I do. But I understand why someone would ignore symptoms. 

  4. On New Year’s Eve my neighbor had a minor stroke.  Prior to being hospitalized, she had been slurring her words for weeks, and that week began to drop things out of her hands, like a full glass of water. 

    When I asked her what she thought was going on up until when her husband took her to the hospital, she said with a pained expression, “I thought it was just old age. I’m getting old!”  It is typical of that generation to ignore symptoms, as they were born in an age when then there was little to be done, and of course they don’t much want to admit they’re losing control.  (They found 90% blockage in one of her arteries.)

    This goes double for men from the over 50 demographic.  I can just imagine them seeing discharge coming from their nipples or noticing lumps in their moobs and thinking, ‘Good grief! – I’m turning into a woman!’, and bearing their fear and embarrassment in silence… till it kills them.

    1. Why can’t I click Like more than once?  Damn you, Teh Intarwebs!

      Your comment should be titled “Stoicism: The Silent Killer”.

  5. Yeah I almost lost my dad to chron’s disease because he was very stoic about it all. He endured the pain, and symptoms until one morning he barely made it down the stairs.  I watched as he just collapsed in on himself crying and said “I am dying, take me to the hospital now!”   He had lost nearly 2 pints of blood at that point. He went in the same day surgery to have his lower intestines removed before he bled out.  The doctor was wondering how he handled that much pain.  I looked at him and said I have the same disorder when it comes to pain. It’s inherited. We don’t feel pain like everyone else. I didn’t feel mine until it was almost too late as well.

    So sometimes, it’s not always that we ignore it.. Sometimes the symptom that should give you the most warning doesn’t feel that bad. (I am truthful it did not feel that “bad”.) My dad said the same until the amount of blood that happened came out. He said that was the symptom that told him he needed to go to the hospital.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Some of us deal so well with pain we underestimate the severity of what those symptoms are trying to tell us.

  6. The fact that so many men feel borderline shame and shirk at using the word “breast” is evidence that men’s health education can always use a little bit of fine tuning. 

    My doctor told me when I was a teenage how to perform checks, and I just made it a habit. It only takes a couple seconds but if no one has ever told you… 

    1.  Thanks, I will remember to tell my nephew (I care for him) and to make it part of the “birds and bees” discussion we have. :D

  7. It really isn’t cost-effective for a man to worry about this. Yeah, it sucks to be that one man out of thousands who actually has breast cancer, but it also sucks to be one of the 999 who might worry needlessly. Some epidemiologists are even critical of women’s mass screening programs, saying they might do more damage in false positives (and even needless surgery) than they do good (and meta studies give them some justification). How much more pointless isn’t it for a man to worry then. Worrying isn’t cost free either, folks.

    What we should worry more about as men is testicular cancer and prostate cancer. Not worry as in going around thinking we may have it, but maybe giving some money for research on it. 

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