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Late cancer diagnoses are common for men with breast cancer

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, more than 400 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. Although male breast cancer is not as prevalent as it is in women, a higher percentage of men die of the disease because their cancers are diagnosed too late to cure.

Breast cancer awareness initiatives primarily focus on women due to the high rate of diagnoses. According to the ACS and NCI, over 230,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in U.S. women each year as compared to nearly 2,250 in men. Women are routinely encouraged by their doctors to perform monthly self-exams and obtain annual mammograms – a diagnostic test that checks for abnormalities in breasts. The same is not so for men.

Self-exams encouraged

Some people tease men about their resistance to seeing doctors when something does not look or feel right. However, it is important for men to realize that they are subject to the risk of breast cancer and should seek professional help if they notice symptoms such as:

  • A lump in the tissue of their chest or underarm area
  • Changes in a breast or nipple
  • Discharge from a nipple

Peter Criss from the rock group KISS is a breast cancer survivor and, when he found a lump on his chest, he had it checked out right away. Years after his diagnosis and the successful removal of the cancerous lump, he is encouraging other men to be proactive about their health and to seek treatment right away.

A misdiagnosis delays the cure

Although the delay in having a suspicious lump examined by a doctor does contribute to a delay in diagnosis, doctors may also be to blame for failing to diagnose male breast cancer. Men comprise only about one percent of breast cancer patients in the nation and, for this reason, the disease is often overlooked during medical exams.

Too often, doctors fail to take biopsies of suspicious lumps and misdiagnose the cancer as Gynecomastia – a benign enlargement of breast tissue in males – or Klinefelter syndrome, which can cause enlarged breasts. The precious time lost due to a misdiagnosis can mean the difference between life and death for men with cancer.

Some factors may increase a man’s chance of having breast cancer. Men with a family history of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation – which also increases their risk for prostate and pancreatic cancers – may wish to have themselves tested even in the absence of symptoms.

Breast cancer is most common in men between the ages of 50 and 70 due to a reduction in testosterone levels as they age. Other possible risk factors include the following:

  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Obesity
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish descent

Cancer is not to be taken lightly and each person deserves a quick diagnosis so he or she may start life-saving treatment immediately. If you or a loved one suffered due to a misdiagnosis or because a doctor failed to property diagnosis a disease, consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as you may be entitled to compensation for your losses.

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