There are millions of global breast cancer diagnoses each year and just under 1% of those are in men. Yet a greater percentage of men diagnosed die of the disease as opposed to women, despite the similarity in treatments and protocol.
“Men are notorious for late presentation and if they are diagnosed it's often in the later stages,” says Rod Ritchie, a breast cancer survivor, advocate, and editor of MaleBC.org.
June 13 – 19 is Men’s Health Week and a time to remind men to take care of themselves and not put off the doctor’s appointments and screenings that could help preserve their health and even keep them alive.
“Every woman knows about the risks of breast cancer, but few men realize it’s a risk for them,” Ritchie says. “So much of men’s health care is just general awareness. You need to be aware of your family history. If you’re finding cases in your primary relatives, you might want to have genetic testing.”
Ritchie lost his mother to breast cancer when she was 40. He is the only one of four brothers to develop breast cancer. His daughter is eligible for a screening program in Australia because of her family history, however his son isn’t, and Ritchie feels he should.
“People who have that potential genetic risk at age 40 should be eligible,” he says.
For Men’s Health Week — and year-round — Ritchie encourages men to be vigilant about their health. Don’t put off examinations and see the doctor if they discover something unusual in the breast, testicles, on the skin or anywhere.
“There’s plenty of support out there,” he says. “I know from my experience; the medical and health care professionals are just as ready to look after you. Don’t leave anything too late before going to the doctor.”