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#MENHAVEBREASTSTOO – February 1, 2017

Leah Steinberg 

If we were to tell you that this year, “about 2,350 new cases of an invasive male cancer” were going to be diagnosed, which cancer would you guess that was? I bet your first guess wasn’t breast cancer, but that is actually the frightening statistic pertaining to this disease. And what’s even more frightening about this fact? “About 440 of those men diagnosed will die from their breast cancer.”

Can you believe that? Men are “dying by the hundreds” and there is so little information out there about what is going on. Why is that? And what can we do to raise awareness and educate the men in our communities and in our families about their risk?

Men Have Breasts Too is a documentary currently in production that is trying to do just this: raise awareness and create a community of men who are affected by male breast cancer. As one male breast cancer survivor says, “It was emasculating when I got diagnosed, and I think that is why I didn’t tell any of my friends.” In the video series produced in association with this upcoming film, “the faces of male breast cancer,” men speak out to empower one another and try to erase the stigma associated with being a man in what is usually a “women’s only club.”

One of the physicians interviewed in the film reasserts this mission by stating, “The numbers make you think about women, rather than men.” Another survivor says in the film, “[when the doctor told me my diagnosis,] I said, ‘you must have the wrong chart, I don’t have breasts.’” As we look at all of the awareness raising campaigns that are targeted only to women, it is not surprising that most men do not know they can get breast cancer. But what are the implications of this lack of knowledge for the men who are affected with this terrible cancer?

One man says in the documentary, “walking into the women’s center was a little intimidating...” And another survivor echoes his feelings by saying, “[the form asked] are you pregnant, when was your last cycle, etc. I filled out my name and address and the rest didn’t really apply to me.” Another male survivor says of his diagnosis, “I felt like a leper, my friends had never even heard of male breast cancer and it freaked them out.”

This documentary is produced in association with the Male Breast Cancer Coalition, which states on itswebsite, “Our goal is to have a world free of breast cancer.  Until we educate everyone, including the medical community concerning the need for more testing and clinical trials available to men, our mission continues to be an uphill battle. Knowledge is power and we want people to be informed.”

The Center agrees that knowledge is power. Please share these facts with the men (and women) in your life so that we can create a healthier and more informed community. Keep these statistics in mind when you look at your family tree and talk to your doctor about your family health history. Remember, BRCA mutations can be passed down through an individual’s mother or father, and these mutations can affect an individual’s sons or daughters. And check out the personal story of Lori Berlin, one of the producers of the film, to learn more about her family’s history with male breast cancer and hereditary cancer

Remember too that BRCA mutations can lead to an increased risk for more than just breast cancer. Check out the Center’s website for more information on hereditary cancer and what diseases you should keep an eye out for in your family tree.

Questions about hereditary cancer? Contact the Center for more information and we can help you find a genetic counselor that is right for you! Also check out the teaser for Men Have Breasts Too, and stay tuned for a film screening coming to a city near you!


Affordable, Accessible Genetic Screening in Illinois

Our affordable, accessible carrier screening program uses advanced technology to provide comprehensive screening for Jewish and interfaith couples. Visit our Get Screened page to learn more and register.


Do You Know What's In Your Genes?

What is the most valuable gift you can give to your family? The gift of good health! There are many health conditions that run in families. Knowing your family health history can alert you to the potential risk for a variety of genetic disorders . Talk to your relatives for warning signs and assess your risk for hereditary cancers.

Did you know: Ashkenazi Jews are 10 TIMES more likely to have BRCA mutations, which significantly increases lifetime risks for hereditary cancers, so what does this heightened risk mean for you? Click here to learn more .