Mr Polycarp Omari (left) is being screened for breast cancer by Agha-Khan hospital nurse during an event organized by African Cancer Foundation at Jomo Kenyatta sports ground in Kisumu.
October is breast cancer awareness month and most health institutions (and the media) are highlighting the plight of women with breast cancer globally.
The hospitals are going a step further by offering free check-ups and scans for women during this month.
However, few people address the issue of breast cancer in men. Although it is relatively rare compared to breast cancer in women, it can be just as devastating and life-changing.
But men don’t have breasts! How can they get breast cancer?
Both men and women, boys and girls have breast tissue. It is just better developed in females to allow for it to play its natural role in feeding the young.
This means that although you may not actually appreciate the breast in a man, it is actually there and it can be affected by any breast medical condition, including cancer.
Some men have large breasts. Usually this is fatty tissue accumulation and not due to glandular (breast-feeding) tissue enlargement.
Do men and women get the same varieties of breast cancer?
Yes, men get the same types of breast cancers that women do, but cancers involving the parts that make and store milk are rare in men.
How will my doctor confirm if I have breast cancer?
The same tests that are performed on a woman are done on a man to confirm breast cancer. This includes a proper physical examination, a scan of the breast and taking samples from the breast or armpit to go test in the lab (medically known as a biopsy).
How is breast cancer in men treated?
Usually, the affected breast is removed (mastectomy) and the armpit is also cleared of any affected tissue. There is also room for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Do men with breast cancer fare worse than women?
The greatest challenge facing men is that they take too long to present to hospital. By the time most men visit their doctor because they are concerned about their breast, the cancer has usually spread to other areas. This is, unfortunately, due to cultural and knowledge deficits when it comes to male breast health.
Women, on the other hand, tend to be more vigilant about their breasts than men and usually go to hospital the moment they notice something is amiss.
However, if a man goes to hospital early, his response to treatment is just as good as a woman who also sought treatment in the initial stages of her disease.
Monthly breast and testicle exam
Just like women examine their breasts, men need to do the same. This is best done in the shower. Try and do it on the same day of the month so as to make it easier to remember. Start with one corner of the breast and work your way round.
Since most men do not have well defined breasts, it may be easier to examine the entire front of the chest. Run the flat tips of your fingers firmly over the skin in a circular motion and move from one end to the other.
When you are done, check the armpit for lumps and then squeeze the nipple to check for any abnormal discharge.
Whilst you are at it, examine your testicles for any abnormalities as well.
These include abnormal lumps, swellings, enlarged vessels (these feel like a ‘bag of worms’) and any areas of tenderness (painful spots).