The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center are urging men to guard against their risk for breast cancer. Commonly believed to be a women’s disease, diagnosed cases of breast cancer in men have increased more than 25 percent in the past 25 years.
Breast cancer affects approximately one in 1,000 men and nearly 500 will die of the disease annually.
“Because men have breast tissue, the cells of the breast can form into a group of cancer cells or a malignant tumor,” says Dr. Albert Wendt, medical oncologist and breast cancer expert, at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s. “Breast cancer in men is just as serious as in women. The survival rate is about the same.”
Phoenix breast cancer survivor Mike Kucharo knows all too well what it’s like to fight a type of cancer that’s often thought of as a women’s disease. After finding a lump in his breast last October, Kucharo was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. He had a mastectomy and underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. He will have to take tamoxifen, a medication used to treat breast cancer, for five years in order to beat the disease.
“When I found the lump, I didn’t think it was anything serious,” says Kucharo, 74, a retired film producer and director. “I was surprised to be diagnosed with breast cancer because I had never heard of a man getting this form of cancer.”
Approximately 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men are diagnosed each year. Any man can develop the cancer, but it is most common between 60 and 70 years of age. One of five men diagnosed with breast cancer will have a genetic link.
“The best way to monitor for breast cancer is to do a monthly breast exam and we may recommend genetic testing if there is a family history of breast cancer,” says Dr. Wendt. “For those who find a suspicious lump, it’s important to immediately follow up with your primary care provider.”
Kucharo hopes that more men will take seriously their risk for getting the disease.
“I tell men that they better start doing self breast exams – they shouldn’t ignore it,” says Kucharo. “It’s considered a women’s disease but it’s not – it can strike anyone.” - St. Joseph’s
Kucharo is available for interviews this week. Dr. Wendt is available for interviews at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Please call to schedule.