Friday, September 30, 2016

Risk factors: aging, estrogen, excess weight

2,600 men are facing diagnosis of breast cancer this year, nonprofit says

Politically, the phrase "top 1 percent" has become important — and again was cited recently by Hillary Clinton regarding the imbalance of wealth in our country.

A different 1 percent is equally important.

That's the amount of breast cancers occurring  in men — with about 2,600 expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year, according to the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit,

That figure puts the lifetime risk at 1 in 1,000 — small, indeed, but not insignificant.

And life-threatening, perhaps, if you happen to be in that 1 percent.

Because, unlike their female counterparts, men tend not to be screened regularly, the disease is likely to be more advanced when first detected.

Risk factors, according to the website, can include aging itself (the average diagnosis for men is 68), high estrogen levels resulting from taking hormone meds, being overweight or being a heavy alcohol user.

Or having a strong family history of the disease or a genetic mutation (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2).

Treatments may include surgery, radiation, chemo or hormonal therapy.

Dr. Marisa Weiss 
Experts cited by include a radiation oncologist, Marisa Weiss of Lankenau Hospital; a surgeon, M. Lisa Attebery of Paoli Hospital; and a Ph.D., Jennifer Harned Adams of the University of Texas.

Another expert, Gerry Bourguignon of Mill Valley, California, one of the regulars in my weekly drop-in breast support group, Marin Man to Man, has also been trying to spread the word about male breast cancer for years.

He, himself, is a survivor.

Want more information about the disease? Consider reading "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," the VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Monday, September 12, 2016

For 1st time, mammogram doesn't scare survivor

Breast cancer anxieties of 'Rollercoaster' author's wife vanish — after only 23 years 

Cancer-free Fox and Weingarten
My wife, Nancy Fox, wasn't at all afraid.

For the first time in 23 years.

She'd previously been nervous each time she'd gone for a mammogram, fearful the test would show her breast cancer had returned.

This go-'round, just last week, no anxiety — probably because she'd been cleared by her gynecologist two days before.

The follow-up letter from her primary physician confirmed the good news:

"No signs of breast cancer."

The letter also reprinted a statement required by California law that her dense breast tissue "can make it harder to evaluate the results of your mammogram and may also be associated with an increase risk of breast cancer."

But even that didn't scare her.

Her current emotional stability and mine clearly are far from the emotions I detailed more than two decades ago about having to let go "of my anger at doctors for not having instant answers, at pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing life-extending but not necessarily life-saving drugs, at myself for not having a magic wand."

Yes, I'd initially been petrified "breast cancer would be my wife's killer," but I also was thrilled to note more than two decades later that "she's flourishing today, as am I."

Specifics on how I, Woody Weingarten, and my wife managed the ups and downs of the diagnosis, treatments and aftermath can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," my VitalityPress book aimed at male caregivers.