When Paul Caine was diagnosed with breast cancer, he had a hard time gaining the support of his friends.
They thought he was joking, assuming that men can’t get breast cancer. None of them believed he was suffering from the disease.
Now, the 50-year-old speaks up about the cancer that invaded his body. While the disease is predominantly seen in women — with nearly 50,000 diagnosed each year — Caine is one of 350 men who are diagnosed each year in the UK.
In the United States, the stakes are higher, with one in every 1,000 men diagnosed annually. According to the American Cancer Association, breast cancer kills about one man every day in the US.
Paul Caine noticed a lump in his left breast when he was in the shower last May, according to The Daily Mail. He notes, “I thought it was a cyst as I had never heard of breast cancer in men.” While many men are made aware of the dangers of prostate cancer, few believe that breast cancer is a risk for them.
His concerned doctor, however, referred him to the hospital where he underwent the same mammography procedures that women do. He was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Caine underwent surgery and chemotherapy. His radiation treatment will begin later this month. The father of 16-year-old daughter Grace notes, “Having cancer gives you a different perspective on life. It makes you think about life and your health more. I had never thought about cancer before.”
Caine now wants other men to take note. “The majority of men I have talked to think as I did, that it’s only women who get breast cancer,” he says. “A lot of people I have told have said, ‘No, men can’t get breast cancer,’ and I say, ‘I can assure you they can, because I have got it.’ “
Symptoms of breast cancer in men can include changes in breast shape or size, a nipple turning in, bleeding or discharge from the nipples, pain or swelling, a lump on the breast or in the armpit, or an ulcer on the skin of the breast. Causes are unknown, but factors such as family history and exposure to high levels of radiation may play a role. Age may increase these factors.
Generally, male breast cancer is easier to spot because a lump in a man’s breast is very apparent. Women are 100 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
“It’s important to know that men are still at lower but measurable risk for breast cancer,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, president of Breastcancer.org. “It’s not insignificant.”
The youngest man to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain is Nicky Avery, who was told he had the condition when he was just 24-years-old. While he initially beat the breast cancer but died at the age of 28 after it returned in his liver and bones.