Astounded and shocked is how men described feeling when learning they had breast cancer, a disease they didn't even know was possible for them to get, says Edie Pituskin, a University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing graduate student.
Little is known about how men cope with breast cancer. Pituskin is conducting what she believes to be the first North American study looking at what men experience after a breast cancer diagnosis--important, considering the different ways men and women cope. Pituskin will be presenting her preliminary findings at the National Conference for Men's Health in Atlanta.
Alberta's Cancer Registry identified 125 living men ranging in age from 44 to 85 who have been diagnosed with the disease--she included 20 in her study.
Pituskin, who works at the Cross Cancer Institute as a clinical research nurse for the Northern Alberta Breast Cancer Program found a wide range of reactions to the diagnosis - from those who felt they could tell no-one what they were facing to those who became advocates. One man made it his mission to educate people, going so far as lifting his shirt at work, warning other males it could happen to them. Another man described himself as "all cut up" and unattractive to women. Several men said they would not go swimming or without a shirt because of the attention it might bring.
With male breast cancer on the rise, Pituskin hopes to raise awareness about the disease and not only encourage men to visit their doctors more often but to highlight the disease to health care professionals who may recognize the illness too late. She also wants to see men participating in breast cancer clinical trials since currently all drug or treatment trials allow only female participants.