A study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), revealed that nearly 80% of men are unaware of their breast cancer risk despite having a family history of the disease. One hundred percent of respondents also reported that their healthcare provider did not discuss the disease with them. AJN, the leading voice of nursing since 1900, is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy.
"This study provides a first step toward an improved understanding about men's perceptions and knowledge of male breast cancer," said author Eileen Thomas, assistant professor at the College of Nursing, University of Colorado Denver and advisory board member of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. "While further research with larger racial and ethnic samples is needed, these findings offer a starting point for the development of evidence-based, gender-specific, health promotion and disease prevention interventions for men."
This qualitative study used a descriptive study design to explore awareness and knowledge of male breast cancer among 28 English-speaking men, all of whom had no history of breast cancer but had at least one maternal blood relative with the disease. All participants were asked to describe their awareness of male breast cancer, what they knew about the disease, and how they thought awareness of male breast cancer could be increased among health care providers and the lay public. Findings included:
•Twenty-two men (79%) reported that they were not aware, and were surprised to find out, that men could get breast cancer. A majority of them could not identify any symptoms other than a lump in the breast.
•All 28 (100%) reported that their primary health care provider never mentioned male breast cancer to them even though all may be at higher risk for the disease because of family history.
•Twelve (43%) indicated that being diagnosed with breast cancer might cause them to question their masculinity.
•Socioeconomic status, as indicated by occupation and religious affiliation, were not indicators of participants' awareness or knowledge of male breast cancer, although three were health care providers.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS):
•While relatively uncommon in men, breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage in men than in women; men also have a higher occurrence of invasive ductal carcinoma, which accounts for at least 80% of all male breast cancer cases.
•Although the rate of female breast cancer has been declining, the number of breast cancer cases in men relative to the population has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.
•Worldwide, approximately 1.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually; this has significant implications for men, since 15% to 20% of men with breast cancer have a blood relative with a history of the disease.
"Male breast cancer is uncommon and so has largely been ignored by the media, general population and health care community," said Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, editorial director and interim editor-in-chief of AJN. "Still, nurses in all settings need to raise awareness about male breast cancer among men as well as women, especially those men at high risk for the disease."
American Journal of Nursing