Dealing with breast cancer across gender

Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in women today, second only to lung cancer. Breast cancer is also the most common cancer among women, excluding skin cancer, according to Imaginis, the breast health resource which seeks to provide reliable and in-depth information on breast cancer and related women’s health issues.

One in every seven women is diagnosed with breast cancer. While breast cancer is seen as a disease that primarily affects females, men are also susceptible to the disease.

Bob Riter, the associate director of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance, is one of the small number of men diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

Nine years ago, Riter noticed a small lump under his left nipple. A few weeks later, he began to bleed from the same area.

“My first reaction was [surprise] that I had a working orifice there and that the bleeding was related to the lump,” Riter said.

Riter went to see a local doctor and, after a few tests, he was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer in men and women.

“After being diagnosed, my life took many turns,” Riter said.

He left his job teaching health care policy at Ithaca College to become the full-time associate director of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.

Breast cancer is nearly 100 times more likely to occur in women then men. However, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2005, approximately 1,690 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in the United States.

It is also estimated that approximately 460 men will die from breast cancer in the United States this year, compared to 40,410 women. For every 100 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, one male will develop the disease.

According to leaders of breast cancer surgery at Stanford University, the best strategies for reducing the number of deaths caused by breast cancer are early detection and prompt treatment.

Early detection has been a problem for men, who tend to ignore breast lumps and see their health care provider only when a lump has become rather large.

Unlike Riter, many men do not recognize the signs or take them seriously. Signs that men should look out for include a lump or swelling, skin dimpling, redness, and discharge from the nipple.

“I deal with my diagnosis by being open with it,” Riter said. “It’s easier to deal with this disease if you have the support of others.”

Once diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many ways that a patient can deal with the disease.

Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy.

After being diagnosed and going through treatment, Riter uses his own experience with breast cancer to inform others about the disease.

“Breast cancer is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Riter said. “And while men shouldn’t get paranoid about getting breast cancer, they should be aware of when something ‘feels different’ and bring it to the attention of their doctors because men get breast cancer too.”