Coffee with Komen – Men with Breast Cancer

by DeAnna R. Wesley, program direcotr, EMBRACE at Eskenazi

Anyone diagnosed with breast cancer can experience overwhelming emotional, physical, financial and social challenges. Although the majority of breast cancer cases are women, it is important to acknowledge that men can also be at risk.  According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Despite the lower rate of incidence, it is important to know that men can also face this dreaded disease. Symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those in women. Unfortunately, men tend to delay going to the doctor until the symptoms are severe, which can lead to a more advanced disease and a decreased chance of survivorship. However, once a man is diagnosed, the treatment is very similar to that of women with the same diagnosis.

Although the symptoms and treatment of breast cancer in men are similar to that in women, this is where the similarities end. In other words, while the medical information and treatment is not much different, the overall experience of breast cancer can be much different and unique for men, leading to additional challenges.

In addition to delaying medical intervention for symptoms, men are also often hesitant to talk about their diagnosis due to fear of social stigma and the feelings of embarrassment and emasculation. Men also find that information and support can be difficult to find since most information is geared towards women. Being a man diagnosed with what is usually considered a “woman’s disease” can lead to anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, depression, uncertainty and social isolation. This can be especially troubling since having a strong support network is critical throughout the treatment and survivorship journey.

The Eskenazi Health EMBRACE program is dedicated to spreading awareness and end the social stigma and feelings of isolation and abandonment associated with a male breast cancer diagnosis. By providing supportive services through a holistic approach, EMBRACE moves far beyond the traditional supportive organizational model by providing access to much needed one-on-one services, strengthening the ability for men to adjust to life with breast cancer. For more information, or to make a referral, please contact DeAnna R. Wesley at 317-880-4930.

If you are in a different hospital system, ask your healthcare professionals about patient navigation services. Additionally, Komen offers a support group for men with breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Breast Helpline. There is no charge for the 12-week telephone support group which provides a safe place for men to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.